Millions of people around the world use hydrotherapy (HT). Such
widespread use, especially in South America, East Asia and Africa, has
led to increased professional and public debate across the world on HT as
a form of healthcare.
In the main European Countries, HT training is incorporated into medical
curricula and HT treatments are provided by national healthcare systems.
However, commonly accepted definitions of HT therapies and products
are yet to be established.
FEMTEC (www.femteconline.org) is one of the most representative
medical thermal HT associations, having been founded in 1937. It has
official working relations with the World Health Organization (WHO).
Together, they develop programmes using natural resorts for therapy and
health. FEMTEC is a co-promoter of the WHO-GARD (Global Alliance
against Chronic Respiratory Diseases) international programme
(www.who.int/respiratory/gard/en/). The Federation maintains close
contacts with international medical hydrology associations like ISMH
(International Society of Medical Hydrology, www.ismh-direct.net),
universities and ministries of health in different countries.
FoRST (www.fondazioneforst.it ) is the Italian Foundation, established in
2003, for scientific research on HT. It provides funding for scientific
research in hydrology and balneotherapy. FoRST is practically the sole
provider of funding for research in this research area in Italy.
FoRST recently redesigned its own system for evaluating scientific
projects. As such, to ensure funding goes to the best projects, the decision was taken to follow standard, internationally-recognized project
evaluation procedures using external experts as peer reviewers.
Even if HT is growing and ever more widespread, there is still a
significant lack of data in this field, no list of the different types of HT
and the definitions have not yet been finalized. In addition, the legal status
of these therapies and the training programmes vary drastically from
country to country. There is still no international assessment of the use of
this kind of therapy.