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UNF recruiting for free physical therapy program funded by Parkinson’s Foundation

The University of North Florida's Doctor of Physical Therapy program is currently recruiting participants for a free exercise therapy program to improve both physical and mental health for persons with Parkinson’s (PwP) in the Jacksonville community. UNF’s program is one of the recipients of more than $2 million in community grants awarded by the Parkinson’s Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) programs across the U.S.  

UNF physical therapy faculty Drs. Chitra Balasubramanian, Dawn Saracino and Jacqueline Osborne will be offering an innovative PD-MEET (Movement Education and Exercise Therapy) program utilizing recommendations consistent with the current exercise goals for PwP. Through the support of the Parkinson’s Foundation, the PD-MEET exercise program will be provided free of cost for a limited number of individuals. The PD-MEET program will be delivered partly as a group exercise session (run in small groups) and partly as a supervised home exercise and includes other elements to meet the integrated health needs of PwP. 

The COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted PwP in the ability to safely exercise with limited access to public and private fitness centers and critical physical therapy services. Due to the dependence of PwP on physical therapy and exercise, social isolation and lack of access to services severely affected the community and led to the deterioration of physical and mental health.

“We believe the PD-MEET program will have a huge impact by motivating positive health behaviors and helping to establish local wellness initiatives for persons with Parkinson’s in Jacksonville,” said UNF physical therapy associate professor Dr. Chitra Balasubramanian. “Ultimately, our long-term vision is to establish the University of North Florida as a center for wellness initiatives to serve persons with Parkinson’s and their families and create a steady pipeline of healthcare professionals prepared to care for their specific needs within the local community.”

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common progressive neurodegenerative condition, causing impairments in both motor and non-motor systems. While PD is the most common movement disorder affecting older adults, it can also be diagnosed at a younger age and is the fastest growing neurologic disorder. Exercise and physical therapy in PwP are proven to improve motor and non-motor impairments and physical and mental function, enhance the quality of life, slow disease progression and be neuroprotective.

If you are diagnosed with PD or know someone who is and would like to learn more about this exercise and physical therapy program, please contact Balasubramanian at Some additional criteria will apply for participation in the program.

The Parkinson’s Foundation annually invests in community programs that make an impact in local communities and help people live better with PD by providing support for unmet health, wellness and educational needs.