You are not logged in. Press here to login.


List volumes - List articles in this issue

Special report

The practice of physical and rehabilitation medicine in sub-Saharan Africa and Antarctica: A white paper or a black mark?

doi: 10.2340/16501977-0367

Open access


Introduction: The medical specialty of physical and rehabilitation medicine has had a proven impact on people with disabilities and on healthcare systems. Documents such as the White Book on Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine in Europe have been important in defining the scope of practice within various regions. However, in some regions the practice has not been well defined
OBJECTIVE: To explore the practice of physical and rehabilitation medicine in Sub-Saharan Africa and Antarctica.
METHODS: Medline searches, membership data searches, fax survey of medical schools, internet searches, and interviews with experts.
RESULTS: The continents are dissimilar in terms of climate and government. However, both Antarctica and Sub-Saharan Africa have no physical and rehabilitation medicine training programs, no professional organizations, no specialty board requirements, and no practising physicians in the field. Since there are no known disabled children on Antarctica and adults are air-lifted to world-class healthcare, the consequences of this deficit are minimal there. However, the 788,000,000 permanent residents of Sub-Saharan Africa, including approximately 78 million people with disabilities, are left unserved.
CONCLUSION: Antarctica is doing fine, but Africa is in a crisis. Local medical schools, hospitals doctors, and people with disabilities, along with foreign volunteers, aid groups, and policymakers can have an impact on the crisis. However, governments, specifically national ministries of health, are ultimately responsible for the health and well-being of their citizens.


Andrew J. Haig, Jonathan Im, Deji Adewole, Virginia Nelson, Brian Krabak


  1. World Health Organization, Disability and Rehabilitation Team (DAR). [Cited 2008 Nov 8] Available from:
  2. Cardenas DD, Haselkorn JK, McElligott JM, Gnatz SM. A bibliography of cost-effectiveness practices in physical medicine and rehabilitation: AAPM&R white paper. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2001; 82: 711–719.
  3. American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Review and update of the 1995 Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Workforce Study. [Cited 2008 Jan 26] Available from:
  4. Gutenbrunner C, Ward AB, Chamberlain MA. The White Book on Physical & Rehabilitation Medicine. Eura Medicophys 2006; 40: 287–333.
  5. Chino N, Ishigami S, Akai M, Liu M, Okajima Y, Koike J, Kobayashi K. Current status of rehabilitation medicine in Asia: a report from New Millennium Asian Symposium on Rehabilitation Medicine. J Rehabil Med 2002; 34: 1–4.
  6. Gutenbrunner C, Ward AB, Chamberlain MA. White Book on Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine in Europe. J Rehabil Med 2007; Suppl 45: 6–47.
  7. Haig AJ. Practice of physical medicine and rehabilitation on both sides of the Atlantic: differences and the factors that drive them. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med 2008; 44: 111–115.
  8. Melvin JL. Physical and rehabilitation medicine: comments related to the White Book on Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine in Europe. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med 2008; 44: 117–119.
  9. Negrini S, Ceravolo MG. The White Book on Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine in Europe: a contribution to the growth of our specialty with no boundaries. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2008; 87: 601–606.
  10. Population Reference Bureau. SubSaharan Africa population. [Cited 2008 Oct 27] Available from:
  11. Index Mundi. Antarctica population. [Cited 2008 Oct 15] Available from:
  12. Krabek B. University of Washington Orthopedics and Sports Medicine [Cited 2008 Oct 15] Available from:
  13. Lomey AL. Physical medicine and rehabilitation: new aims in treatment. S Afr Med J 1965; 39: 996–998.
  14. Lomey AL. Physical medicine and rehabilitation: its scopes and problems. S Afr Med J 1954; 28: 711–714.
  15. Frye B. Review of the World Health Organization’s report on disability prevention and rehabilitation. Rehabil Nurs 1993; 18: 43–44.
  16. Mercedes-Benz Corporation. Mercedes-Benz South Africa Group in South Africa Bucks the Trend. Press release 2008 Mar 27 [Cited 2008 Nov 1] Available from:
  17. International Labor Organization, United Nations Educational, Cultural, and Scientific Organization, World Health Organization. CBR: a strategy for rehabilitation, equalization of opportunities, poverty reduction and social inclusion of people with disabilities (Joint Position Paper 2004). [Cited 2008 Nov 2] Available from:
  18. Strasser DC, Falconer JA, Herrin JS, Bowen SE, Stevens AB, Uomoto J. Team functioning and patient outcomes in stroke rehabilitation. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2005; 86: 403–409.
  19. National Park Service, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. FDR’s struggle with disability. [Cited 2008 Nov 8] Available from:

Related articles

There are no related articles.



Full text



There is no supplementary for this article.

Related articles

Click here to show related articles

Print information

Volume 41, Issue 6

DOI: 10.2340/16501977-0367

Pages: 401-405

View at PubMed