Globally, more children than ever get life-changing treatment for this neglected disability

Vastly more children than ever before are receiving treatment for a readily preventable, otherwise lifelong disability known as clubfoot, which affects 174,000 babies worldwide each year. Left untreated, it is one of the greatest causes of physical disability worldwide and a root cause of stigma, abuse, illiteracy, and lifelong poverty.

“It’s really astonishing progress.”

Over 32 times more children in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are receiving treatment annually than were in 2005, according to new data from the Global Clubfoot Initiative (GCI). In 2005, fewer than 1,000 children, living in only five LMICs combined, received treatment for clubfoot. By 2017, more than 32,000 children began treatment in 58 countries.

Still, today, only one in five children worldwide has access to the low-cost treatment that replaced surgery as the standard of care in the 1990s.

GCI released this and other key findings in a biannual survey of programs from 80 countries on their combined progress to eliminate this major physical disability through access to quality treatment. Additional findings from the global survey show that:

  • 78% of children were enrolled in treatment before their first birthday, and 90% were enrolled before the age of two, pointing to improved early detection and referral initiatives.
  • Governments are providing 70% of facility space and clinic staff required for treatment, a positive step towards creating sustainable clubfoot programs in many countries—but there is still a great need for Ministries of Health to invest in other treatment costs, including supplies, staff, training, and community outreach.
  • Few LMICs cover clubfoot under a national strategic health initiative, nor do their medical curricula teach the Ponseti method to providers. Both are imperative for further action and advocacy.

The Ponseti method is a proven, low-cost, lasting treatment. It works in 95% of cases, costs approximately $400 per child, and provides an ideal model to scale globally. According to RunFree2030: A Global Strategy for Clubfoot,with a total investment of $160 million, over 1.2 million children could be treated, while local governments receive technical support to build lasting treatment systems.

MiracleFeet has enrolled over 38,000 children in Ponseti treatment in the past nine years and played a critical role in developing the global RunFree strategy. Last year alone, we reached nearly 3,000 health professionals through outreach and training to develop countries’ treatment capacity.

“We believe we can end the devastating physical disability caused by neglected clubfoot in our lifetimes, and GCI’s survey results further confirm that we are on the right track,” says Chesca Colloredo-Mansfeld, founder and executive director of MiracleFeet.

Indeed, the results show marked improvement towards reaching all children who need treatment.

“Our model of collaboration and empowerment is incredibly effective at addressing an issue that is often overlooked in the global health landscape.”

“It’s really astonishing progress,” said Rosalind Owen of GCI. “We can say very conclusively that more children than ever before have access to treatment, and in more countries than ever before.”

MiracleFeet’s Director of Programs Jen Everhart concurs: progress has been rapid and impressive since MiracleFeet began treating children at one clinic in Brazil in 2010.

“We’ve grown to support treatment at 186 clinics,” she said. “It has been nearly a decade, and we’ve shown that our model of collaboration and empowerment is incredibly effective at addressing an issue that is often overlooked in the global health landscape. All children deserve access to this low-cost, proven treatment that can give them mobility for life.”