Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work

Research Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Jyothi Gupta


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The American Physical Therapy Association adopted the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) in 2008. ICF provided universal terminology for health professions, defined health in bio-psychosocial terms, and introduced neutral language and contextual influences on health (World Health Organization, 2001). The primary purpose of this study was to create a descriptive map of the physical therapy (PT) literature specific to the areas of health promotion (HP), prevention, and well-being and the use of ICF terminology. The secondary intent was to explore the status of research and topics of interest physical therapy pertaining to these areas.

METHODS: A systematic mapping review aims to evaluate the knowledge of or evidence for specific areas (Evidence for Policy and Practice Information Centre, 2010). It allows researchers to conduct an in-depth review and construct a descriptive map of the literature, gain an understanding of the state of affairs pertaining to scholarship of a particular concept or topic, and identify gaps and directions for future study (Grant & Booth, 2009). Comprehensive database searches were conducted using combinations of the search terms “physical therapy,” “health promotion,” “wellness,” and “well-being.” Ultimately, 132 articles met study criteria and were analyzed. A coding sheet was created using ICF terminology and tested for inter-rater reliability, and each article was reviewed. Articles were classified as primary prevention for healthy populations or secondary/tertiary prevention for those with a diagnosis. The coded articles were charted for further descriptive analysis and identification of themes.

RESULTS: Four major subcategories were identified in the articles: wellness, well-being, quality of life (QOL), or HP. The distribution of articles for well-being, wellness, and HP were fairly even for primary prevention, and only 10% of the articles involved QOL. However, the majority of articles related to secondary/tertiary prevention coded for well-being (48.4%) or QOL (45.3%). Both primary prevention and secondary/tertiary prevention articles most commonly coded for exercise (75% and 87.5, respectively) and mood (55% and 81%, respectively). Other recurring primary prevention article codes were balance (32%), musculoskeletal (29%), and neuromuscular (26%). Secondary/tertiary prevention articles had common codes of neuromuscular (53%), pain (50%), and mobility (47%).

CONCLUSIONS: The composition of PT literature on primary prevention in healthy individuals and secondary/tertiary prevention in individuals with diagnosis is markedly different. It appears that researchers associate HP and wellness with healthy populations, and QOL and well-being with populations with a diagnosis. The inconsistent and interchangeable use of language was a challenge for systematic analysis.