By Astrid Medina, Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon, member of Bogotá Centenario Rotary Club (Colombia), and board member of the Rotary Action Group for Clubfoot
Clubfoot is the most common congenital musculoskeletal deformity in which an infant’s foot is turned inward. It is estimated that approximately 800 children are born each year with this deformity in the Colombian population, and one child is born with it every three minutes worldwide. Until two decades ago, the treatment for clubfoot involved extensive surgeries with poor long-term functional outcomes. Untreated clubfoot often leads to isolation, physical abuse, and poverty because of fewer employment opportunities
The Ponseti Method is universally recognized as the treatment of choice for children born with this condition. Worldwide, the Ponseti method has changed the lives of children with clubfoot. It is a simple and cost-effective method that allows for complete correction of the deformity, but it requires detailed knowledge of the technique by pediatric orthopedic surgeons to achieve proven successful outcomes. Thanks to the Ponseti method, children have the possibility to live the rest of their lives with normal function of their feet.
How does Rotary contribute?
As Rotary and Rotaract club members, we are firmly committed to responding to the needs of our communities. Identifying limited knowledge about the Ponseti method in Colombia and the extensive surgeries that were being performed for these patients, the Rotary clubs Bogota Centenario (Colombia) and Iowa City A.M. (United States) established a global grant to implement a national program for the treatment of clubfoot in Colombia by educating Colombian pediatric orthopedic surgeons on the non-invasive method.
This project was created and implemented in partnership with the Colombian Society of Pediatric Orthopedics (SOCOIN) and the Latin American Society of Pediatric Orthopedics (SLAOTI). The purpose of this project was to establish a national program in Colombia, where orthopedic surgeons would acquire the necessary skills to:
- correctly apply the method,
- implement it in their workplaces, and
- become multipliers of this treatment in their regions.
Educational workshops for the country’s orthopedic surgeons were done in a personalized “hands-on” manner, in accordance with the Rotary Action Group for Clubfoot’s partner, Ponseti International Association. This training allowed for a thorough understanding and correct application of the method. To date, 44 pediatric orthopedic surgeons have been trained in the method in Colombia.
The Rotary Action Group for Clubfoot not only promotes the Ponseti Method treatment but also helps with:
- providing guidance and assistance with writing global grants and budgets for clubfoot treatment,
- assisting to secure funding, and
- publicizing the progress of grants through sharing updates on the Rotary Action Group for Clubfoot newsletter, webpage, social media channels, and the District 6000 (Iowa) newsletter.
The Rotary Action Group for Clubfoot also approved funding for the creation of a promotional video to share with Rotarians in Colombia during a District 4281 conference.
For life-long results, children must wear special shoes or braces at night until the age of five. In our country, patients with limited resources cannot access these braces. With this issue in mind, a brace bank was established. The bank allows parents and caretakers to exchange braces as their child grows until they are five years old. With support from another Rotary Foundation global grant that equipped the bank with braces, today in Colombia, any child treated using the Ponseti method in a Ponseti clinic receives their brace for free until age five. A committee formed by Rotary districts in Colombia, the Colombian Society of Orthopedics (SCCOT), and a representative of the parents manage this bank. This second global grant is a collaborative exercise between the two districts of Colombia, with contributions from more than 25 Colombian Rotary clubs, five Rotary clubs of Calgary (Canada), the Rotary Action Group for Clubfoot (on behalf of the Rotary Club of Iowa City, United States), and Districts 5360 and 6000.
Unity between Colombia’s two Rotary districts and the participating clubs has also been a wonderful outcome of this national program. Currently, 28 clubs are part of this program. Rotary membership has been strengthened because many Rotary club members have had the opportunity to contribute to different aspects of the program.
The model to develop Colombia’s national clubfoot treatment program was built using the existing healthcare infrastructure and professional sectors to provide sustainable, universal, effective, and safe treatment of clubfoot. Early diagnosis and referral to non-invasive, affordable treatment through the Ponseti Method improves the health of children and provides them an opportunity to lead an active life without physical pain and impaired mobility.
Contact the Rotary Action Group for Clubfoot to explore opportunities about how your club or district can increase awareness that clubfoot is fully treatable without expensive surgeries or to partner on establishing a national clubfoot treatment program.
For more information on our Action Group and how to get involved, visit our website.