The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has allocated $848,766 to UCP Wheels for Humanity to work with the intensive therapy experts at the UCLA/Orthopaedic Hospital Center for Cerebral Palsy on the launch an innovative physical therapy program in El Salvador.
There are an estimated 620,000 people with disabilities in El Salvador, and 4% of the population is estimated to have become disabled due to the 13 years of armed conflict and the gang-related violence that has followed it. For these individuals, physical and occupational therapy can lead to increased strength and independence and improved quality of life, yet from 2000-2005 there were only 118 physical therapists registered as working within the Salvadoran health sector—constituting a ratio of 1 physical therapist per 5,254 individuals who need one. For the most part, these therapists are concentrated in urban areas and structure their therapy in short, ongoing sessions, making them difficult for families in rural communities to access.
In partnership with the Salvadoran Institute for the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons and the Protection Fund for the Disabled and Injured as a Result of Armed Conflict, UCP Wheels and the UCLA/Orthopaedic Hospital Center for Cerebral Palsy will address this problem through the introduction of the Intensive Model of Therapy (IMOT) to the health sector in El Salvador. IMOT involves extended therapy sessions of 3-5 hours, 5 days a week, for 3-4 weeks, and uses strength training combined with repetitive movements to improve functional mobility. During these intensive sessions, therapists also train caregivers in exercises and therapy techniques so family members can continue working with the disabled individual at home.
It is the hope of all involved that in the long term the program will constitute a significant shift in the way rehabilitation services are provided in El Salvador, providing greater access to physical and occupational therapy nationwide. Moreover, the program will be an opportunity to test a model that has global potential as a method for eliminating the impracticalities of therapy within a developing country context.