Why the MiracleFeet Brace is a Gateway for Treatment Expansion and Networks
In 2015, MiracleFeet developed a low-cost, high-quality brace to address the urgent need for a scalable solution to the lack of this essential device (needed by at least 1 in 800 babies) in low- and middle-income countries. Historically, we have provided braces for free (to date, over 50,000 braces are in use in 39 countries) primarily to clinics in public hospitals as part of a broad package of support MiracleFeet provides to local partners. In parallel, we have always recognized that there was an opportunity to increase access to the brace through market-based solutions, given that there were very limited options available for those wishing to purchase a brace. We reached out to Assistive Technology Impact Fund (ATIF) for technical and financial support to explore and pilot innovative ways to create a more robust global market for clubfoot braces.
Over the past nine months, MiracleFeet, with the support of ATIF, has been working to increase distribution of the MiracleFeet brace and explore commercial opportunities in Nigeria and across Africa. As we wrap up the 9-month project, we have learned a great deal. We initially went into this project expecting that the demand for clubfoot treatment (and in turn, braces) existed on a larger scale in Nigeria than the reality revealed.
Our analysis uncovered that in fact, not only were braces not readily available, but neither was treatment. We now understand that we need to focus future efforts on providing training for treatment providers to further increase demand for braces, prescribed in accordance with treatment guidelines.
Additionally, our work with ATIF (Assistive Technology Impact Fund) has fundamentally changed the way we view the role of the MiracleFeet brace within our broad mission of ending clubfoot disability. We had always thought as treatment as the pre-cursor to driving demand for braces, but this project has opened our eyes to the fact that the MiracleFeet brace is a gateway to expanding access to treatment in the countries where we work. This project has led to new partnerships, an expanded network of clubfoot and AT providers in Nigeria and across Africa, and new possibilities of expansion via distributors.
MiracleFeet’s focus to date has been on increasing access to treatment for the lowest income children. While that will remain our highest priority, we are excited to build on our experiences of the past nine months to address the needs of more middle-income families by leveraging market-based solutions—like charging private hospital networks for training so more doctors are able to provide quality clubfoot treatment to more children. In parallel, we hope to help create the enabling environment that is needed to level the playing field of people with disabilities by advocating at a global and national level for equitable access to healthcare and assistive technology for people with disabilities.
We believe that this three-pronged strategy (our core program for low-income children, market-based provision of training and braces to enable private hospitals to take care of middle-income children, and global advocacy for better policies around Assistive Technology and clubfoot treatment) will result in a world where every child born with clubfoot has access to the quality care they deserve regardless of where they were born.