PAHO and MiracleFeet partner to launch a free virtual course for health workers on clubfoot

December 05, 2022

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), WHO’s regional office of the Americas, and MiracleFeet just launched an open access virtual course on clubfoot highlighting the importance of early identification, the surprisingly high prevalence, and impact of untreated clubfoot – a major cause of disability worldwide.

This course, available in English and Spanish, is aimed at primary at frontline health workers and includes a close look at clubfoot—the most common congenital cause of physical disability worldwide affecting an estimated 200,000 babies every year. The course presents essential information on the non-surgical, low cost, and extremely effective Ponseti method, the orthopedic treatment standard.

“This course is a tremendous opportunity to raise awareness and promote the integration of early detection and referral into healthcare systems,” says Daphne Sorensen, CEO of MiracleFeet, “so that every baby born with clubfoot starts treatment early, ideally within in the first few weeks of life.”

Dr. Betzabé Butrón Riveros, Regional Advisor on Child Health at PAHO adds, “when we recognize and address clubfoot we can change an entire life in a matter of weeks. We cannot leave these children behind.”

The self-directed and self-paced virtual course includes four modules and four key learning outcomes.

Modules and learning outcomes

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Modules

  • What is clubfoot?
  • The case for treating clubfoot
  • Clubfoot treatment
  • The role of the health worker
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Learning outcomes

  • Familiarity with the characteristics of clubfoot and other common birth impairments
  • Knowledge of the Ponseti method—a simple, low-cost technique—and how it can be used to effectively treat clubfoot
  • Understanding of the importance of early detection and referral and the role healthcare workers play in examining children for birth impairments
  • Reflect on community perceptions of birth impairments and learn through examples how to communicate with families in a supportive and encouraging way, avoiding stigma and misinformation.

Through this course, MiracleFeet and PAHO are working together to support regional and country level actions to prevent the life-long disability caused by untreated clubfoot. This partnership signals deserved recognition in awareness raising for clubfoot and the need for expanded access to its low-cost treatment.

“Early detection and referral of children with conditions like clubfoot is crucial to help them access the rehabilitation they need when it can help the most,” says Antony Duttine, Regional Advisor, Disability and Rehabilitation at PAHO. “Early childhood development is critically linked to lifetime outcomes. Access to services improves a child’s ability to learn and play from infancy, and generates greater gains throughout their lives, compared to deferred intervention.”

Increasing early access to clubfoot treatment will transform many young futures, especially in low- and middle-income countries where four out of five children do not have access to care. The course also aligns to the Sustainable Development Goal #3 and with PAHO’s commitment to improve children’s health and quality of life. Training healthcare workers to identify and refer clubfoot cases means more children will have access to not only mobility, but also independence, education, and employment opportunities.

“When we recognize and address clubfoot we can change an entire life in a matter of weeks. We cannot leave these children behind.”

Dr. Betzabé Butrón Riveros

The course is free and available at the Virtual Campus for Public Health of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a network of people, institutions and organizations who have been sharing public health courses, resources, and information since 2008.  With 1.7 million users, participants who review the educational material, pass the evaluations, and answer the Virtual Campus quality survey can download the certificate of participation and approval issued by PAHO.

“Building awareness of clubfoot and other birth impairments within the Americas will lead to more babies being referred for treatment, and more children accessing the rehabilitative care which is their right,” says Anna Cuthel, MiracleFeet’s Technical Director.