Changing lives for children with clubfoot through global collaborations

By Jill Olsen, Co-Chair of the RAG4Clubfoot

Every child born with clubfoot deformity deserves to walk and run. This disability occurs in one in 750 live births resulting in 200,000 children annually worldwide needing treatment. To this end, our global Rotarian Action Group, RAG4Clubfoot, is dedicated to ensuring impacted children receive the University of Iowa’s low-cost, non-surgical Ponseti treatment of casting and bracing, proven to end the clubfoot disability.

RAG4Clubfoot was invited to present a breakout session during a global health conference in Nebraska, USA earlier this year. Following the theme of the conference, Imagining Partnerships: A Step Towards Global Health Equity, a team of three RAG4Clubfoot board members including Patty Roberts, Jacque Andrew and me, detailed the many ways the action group partners with Rotary clubs, Rotary International and Ponseti International to provide Ponseti Method treatment globally.

The Ponseti method can be used all over the world. Our group serves as the voice and the point of contact for all projects related to the provision of the Ponseti Method, the work of Iowa’s Dr. Ignacio Ponseti. To provide adequate access to this treatment modality, 4,000 physicians world-wide need to be trained with hands-on mentoring.

We collaborate with the University of Iowa’s Ponseti clinic team, Ponseti International Association, and Clubfoot Solutions, a manufacturer/distributor of low-cost braces, to encourage Rotary clubs, businesses and non-profits to support training healthcare professionals in the Ponseti Method through centers and clinics, the provision of braces, education for families and public awareness that clubfoot is treatable.

During our presentation, we discussed how organizing RAG4Clubfoot required a lot of pre-planning, research and networking. To ensure our success, we defined a clear understanding of how various agencies, corporate and country cultures could work together to collectively reach each entity’s goals. Our presentation highlighted the benefits, challenges and results of partnerships and ongoing global training grants to train physicians in Nigeria, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.

More than 300 medical students, masters and doctoral candidates and other health professionals attended the annual event which was organized by student leaders. The endowed keynote speaker was Dr. Geetha Jayaram, senior faculty member of the Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry. She is also the recipient of the Rotary Alumni Global Service Award.  Dr. Geetha is a former Rotaractor and recipient of a Rotary grant to train university teachers in 2005.  Honored for her work in psychiatry, she developed an innovative global mental health program in southern India, which has served patients for two decades in 206 villages reaching of over several million households.

Take action!

Our ten years of experience has indicated that, for someone to fully comprehend and apply the Ponseti Method, he/she must work closely with a well-trained, skilled provider and observe/participate in the treatment of twenty or more patients. If you would like to participate in our mentorship program, we can facilitate an introduction to one of our Ponseti mentors. You must be willing to travel to the mentor’s clinical facility for approximately two weeks. Please refer to our website to identify possible mentors who may be located close to you.

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