Our Research

This is a graphic that displays each of the aims of the 4 Platforms of the Department of Physical Therapy. On the top left bubble – this is the platform on Healthy Development and Aging with the aim to develop health and well-being strategies for people across the lifespan. On the top right bubble – this is the platform on Body Structure and Function with the aim to determine physiological and biomechanical mechanisms that impair function. On the bottom left bubble – this is the platform on Society, Politics, Ethics and Culture (SPEC) with the aim to examine and address the social, political, economic and cultural forces that shape health, disease and disability. On the bottom right bubble – this is the platform on Digital Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation with the aim to build and test technologies that support health and advance physical therapy practice.

Research Platforms of the Department of Physical Therapy
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Faculty in the Department of Physical Therapy are engaged in research and education scholarship under four integrated Research Platforms. Physiotherapy offers critical tools and methods for preventing, treating, and supporting individuals living with injury, illness, and disability across the lifespan, and improving function and well-being. Excellence in research with real-world impact for enhancing the health of Canadians requires high quality and innovative initiatives that respond to the changing needs of populations and produce findings that build our science and inform further research, education, clinical practice, and policy.

For more information on the Department of Physical Therapy Research Platforms – click here.

Research in each platform incorporates:

  • Education scholarship that directly informs the MScPT curriculum and beyond.
  • Integrated and end-of-project knowledge translation with the aims of increasing the uptake of evidence at the level of the individual, program, policy, and healthcare system to improve the health of individuals and communities.
  • Community-engaged approaches whereby we collaborate with diverse communities aspects of research development, implementation, and translation.
  • Approaches that incorporates equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • Local, national, and international collaborations.

Our research platforms below profile the breadth and depth of faculty expertise in research that spans the continuum from cellular mechanisms to population and community health.

Platform 1: Healthy Development and Aging

The aim of this research platform is to strengthen and increase access to physical therapy, healthcare, and community systems that optimize the health and well-being of people across the lifespan. This aim is addressed by

  1. Developing tools and approaches to understand populations with complex health and social care needs;
  2. Developing beneficial and cost-effective physical therapy and rehabilitation interventions and community wellness programs that meet the needs of individuals and families;
  3. Understanding how social factors, financing systems, organizational structures and processes, health technologies, and personal behaviors affect implementation of and access to these interventions and programs;
  4. Designing effective strategies to increase the uptake of physical therapy and rehabilitation interventions and community wellness programs; and
  5. Creating innovative education tools and programs to prepare physical therapists for current and emerging roles that advance the health, function, and well-being of individuals, families, and communities.

All research within this platform is conducted in partnership with relevant stakeholder groups in alignment with an integrated knowledge translation approach to ensure the research is meaningful and contextually relevant. Faculty expertise with implementation science means that research findings inform clinical practice including clinical practice guidelines, community programs, health policy, as well as entry-to-practice and post-graduate education in physical therapy. Findings also inform rehabilitation and community programs designed for children, youth, adults, and older adults with a range of health conditions.

Research undertaken within this platform has yielded new methods of physical therapy education, assessment, and treatment. Faculty have created innovative community-based exercise, dance, and self-management programs incorporating new roles for health professionals and evidence-based strategies to promote health, function, and well-being across the lifespan. Diverse research methodologies, including qualitative, quantitative, mixed method, and multi-method research, are used within this platform. Faculty have expertise with knowledge synthesis, health record reviews, surveys, development and evaluation of complex interventions using time series and (cluster) randomized controlled trials, advanced statistical modeling, behaviour change theories, and clinical practice guideline development.

Platform 2: Assessing Body Structure and Function

The aim of research in this platform is to determine the physiological and biomechanical mechanisms underlying impaired mobility and function associated with acute and chronic health conditions affecting children and adults. This aim is addressed by:

  1. Developing innovative technology-assisted approaches for assessing structures and functions of the neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, and cardiorespiratory systems and interactions with the environment;
  2. Determining physiological and biomechanical function of healthy individuals; and
  3. Determining physiological and biomechanical impairment and compensatory change in people with acute and chronic health conditions.

Research in this platform incorporates laboratory-based testing, clinical research, and evaluation of real-time person-environment interactions. Findings inform assessment and treatment approaches for physical therapy and rehabilitation with children, youth, and adults with a range of acute and chronic health conditions including idiopathic scoliosis, cerebral palsy, brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, chronic lung disease, critical illness, and solid organ transplantation. Faculty expertise includes implementation science such that research findings inform clinical practice, community programs, and health policy.

Platform 3: Social, Political, Ethical & Cultural (SPEC) Dimensions of Health and Disability

The aim of this platform is to investigate and address the social, political, ethical and cultural forces that shape how health, disease, and disability are understood and addressed in healthcare and rehabilitation and in various communities and societies. This aim is addressed through critical social science approaches that investigate:

  1. How health, disease, and disability is conceptualized and addressed in health care, communities and at the societal levels and the effects on disabled people;
  2. How systems of oppression shape healthcare and contribute to social and health inequities; and
  3. How core assumptions, concepts and values underpinning physical therapy and healthcare influence education, practice, delivery, policy, and/or research.

Research in this theme is directed towards critical inquiry, has explicit anti-oppression aims oriented to transformative and emancipatory systemic changes to healthcare and society more broadly.
Aligned with the growing field of critical rehabilitation studies, SPEC research is explicitly transdisciplinary, drawing on diverse knowledges, and critical scholarships ( critical disability studies, critical race theory, anti-colonial studies, Indigenous studies, childhood studies, feminist studies, and posthumanism. The platform also promotes diverse methodologies, such as narrative, discourse analysis, oral history and arts based approaches.

Platform 4: Digital Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation

The aim of this platform is to establish and translate evidence involving innovative virtual rehabilitation approaches for advancing education and implementation of rehabilitation assessment and interventions for people living with chronic conditions. This aim is addressed by:

  1. Developing mobile health solutions and technologies to advance implementation of recommended rehabilitation assessments and treatments, patient education, and healthy living;
  2. Developing effective approaches for the virtual delivery of rehabilitation, community-based exercise, and physical activity interventions;
  3. Validating electronically administered patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) and virtually administered performance-based rehabilitation assessment tools; and
  4. Developing and evaluating virtually delivered physical therapy education.

This platform encompasses emerging advances in virtual approaches to clinical practice, education, and research. The COVID-19 pandemic has led faculty to address the urgent need for innovative approaches to virtual physical therapy education, assessment, and treatment, and community-based exercise programming in Canada. This platform includes using implementation science approaches to assess the accessibility, acceptability, effect, fidelity, adoption, feasibility, and sustainability of virtually delivered interventions.  Findings are of benefit to physical therapy learners and practitioners, and people with HIV, spinal cord injury, stroke, and other chronic health conditions.