MARSHFIELD, Massachusetts — Clubfoot is one of the most common congenital deformities seen in babies. The foot twisting inward and downward characterizes the deformity. In developed countries it is rarely seen outside of infancy, but in the developing world, clubfoot can mean a lifetime of pain, stigma and a lack of normalcy. About 80 percent of cases worldwide are found in developing countries, where the likelihood of correction is low and the effects of such a deformity may be felt the hardest.
A new push for the correction of this treatable problem has began with the introduction of the Ponseti Method. The method developed by Dr. Ignacio Ponseti uses casts and braces to gently manipulate the affected foot. This revolutionary method is more effective for a wider variety of cases and has fewer side effects than the traditional surgery.
This new method is especially important for children born with the deformity in developing countries for a number of reasons. Among the most important is that it is more cost effective. The traditional surgical correction method required repeated clinical visits with associated high costs and was widely inaccessible. The new method offers a gentler, often safer, approach that can be administered by trained professionals rather than strictly surgeons. There is evidence that the Ponseti Method also has greater success in the long-term, offering a better quality of life over the course of one’s lifetime.
In developing countries, children born with clubfoot are unable to become active participants in their communities and in the workforce. The deformity sets the individual back physically but also mentally as the feeling of incapacitation and stigmatization takes toll on one’s social development. In many developing countries, people are heavily reliant on physical labor in their occupation and also in their home. A deformity such as a clubfoot is extremely detrimental to a person’s individual success.
A push to make the Ponseti Method and curing clubfoot a priority in public health work across the globe began in the form of clinics. Clinics have started popping up in medically undeveloped communities and more medical professionals are being trained in using the Ponseti Method. A number of governments have partnered with the organization behind the push for widespread administration of the Ponseti method, Ponseti International, which is good news for the field of public health as the link between international organizations and individual governments is strengthened.
Not only is the implementation of the method improving the lives of millions, it is also reducing poverty and it may have long-term effects on the success of future public health movements. Clubfoot is best treated early, and as the treatment becomes more readily available, communities and people in need will become more comfortable and familiar with early and routine visits to health care facilities. This will make for healthier communities which in turn produces more economically, socially and politically vibrant communities.
While the larger implications may seem hopeful, they are feasible. A push for widespread and global implementation and utilization of medical procedures such as the Ponseti Method for health issues in the developing world is needed. There needs to be an increase in funding for these projects in order for them to be fully accessible to the people who need them. The entire world can reap the benefits of treating something as simple as clubfoot.
– Emma Dowd