STEPS TO SUCCESS
When Karen Moss’ son was born with club foot, leading her to seek cutting-edge treatment for him in the USA, nobody knew this would have a knock-on effect that would help reshape the lives of children born with club foot, first all over South Africa and then even in neighbouring countries! Steps (steps.org.za) is a non-profit organisation established 14 years ago to improve the lives of children born with club foot.
The organisation works with club-foot clinics in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania and the Seychelles, and provides information and support to parents across
Southern and East Africa. They focus on training, clinic support, advocacy, and providing braces to children who need them. Steps supports and partners with 29 club-foot clinics in South Africa and mentors various clubfoot clinics and organisations in the region. In Johannesburg, Chris Hani Baragwanath’s workshop in Soweto produces 50 to 60 of these braces a month to sustain successful treatment.
WHAT IS CLUB FOOT?
Club foot is a condition present at birth. The cause is unknown but is thought to be due to genetic and environmental factors. It can run in families, and twice as many boys as girls have club foot. One or both feet point inward and down. The foot is rigid and cannot be pushed back to the correct position. Club foot is a common birth defect that affects about 2 000 children in South Africa annually. With early intervention, club foot is treatable. Untreated club foot causes permanent disability, and the child cannot wear shoes.
THE PONSETI METHOD
Named after the doctor who pioneered the procedure, the Ponseti method has become the international gold standard for treating club foot. It is a non-surgical process involving weekly casts over four to six weeks, followed by the wearing of a foot-abduction brace at night and during naps until age four or five that helps to maintain the corrected position of the foot. Treatment should begin early in life while the bones are softer and more malleable.