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University of Iowa Foundation Release


Feb. 8, 2008

Gift enables UI to take clubfoot-eradication program to 10 countries

Thousands of children born with debilitating congenital clubfoot disease in developing countries around the world will be cured of their deformity, thanks to a global University of Iowa program launched in January.

The initiative, through which doctors from the UI and elsewhere will train local health care workers in 10 countries to treat children by using the renowned Ponseti method of clubfoot treatment, was launched by a gift to the UI Foundation of $500,000. The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a philanthropist and business leader from North Carolina who supports especially promising global public health projects.

The UI's Ponseti International Association for the Advancement of Clubfoot Treatment is conducting the global training-and-treatment tour, which will run through 2008, in partnership with Christian Blind Mission. The tour kicked off in January 2008, in Haiti and Laos, and will be followed by trips to Nepal, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Paraguay and Honduras. Children born with clubfoot in these and other developing countries face significant cultural and socioeconomic barriers to education and future employment. Through this initiative, approximately 5,000 children will receive the Ponseti method of clubfoot treatment, and health care workers will be trained to treat future cases on an ongoing basis.

The Ponseti method was developed at the UI in the 1950s by Ignacio Ponseti, M.D., (photo, left) professor emeritus in the UI Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, as an alternative to surgery, which is very expensive and often leaves patients with chronic pain and requiring further operations.

Jose Morcuende, M.D., Ph.D., (photo, right) an internationally recognized leader in clubfoot treatment and an associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, said the 10-country tour is a watershed moment in the UI's efforts to eradicate clubfoot disease throughout the world.

"The Ponseti method restores children born with clubfoot to normal mobility," Morcuende said. "It can easily be performed not just by doctors but also by nurses, midwives and other health care workers, and because it requires no surgery, it is extremely inexpensive. As such, we have the opportunity to help children in the poorest regions of the world who before had no hope as they faced a lifelong struggle with their crippling disability. This project marks our first widespread effort to take the Ponseti method around the world, and we are very excited about the possibilities."

The Ponseti method involves using simple plaster casts and gentle manual manipulation of the feet, and has become the "gold standard" for clubfoot treatment, after decades of positive follow-up results and numerous international peer-reviewed studies showing success rates as high as 98 percent. The Ponseti method is now endorsed as the preferred clubfoot treatment by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization and other leading public-health entities.

It is estimated that about 200,000 children per year around the world are born with clubfoot, which when left untreated leaves patients unable to walk normally, if at all. Before the advent of the Ponseti method and the efforts of Ponseti International and partner organizations such as Christian Blind Mission to spread the Ponseti method on a global basis, the vast majority of affected children in poorer nations have had no access to treatment of any kind.

The UI and the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, established the Ponseti International Association for the Advancement of Clubfoot Treatment in 2006 to spread the use of the Ponseti method in the United States and globally. For more information, visit Ponseti International's Web site at

Christian Blind Mission is an international organization dedicated to improving the lives and advancing the rights of disabled individuals in developing countries.

The UI acknowledges the UI Foundation as the preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the university. For more information about the UI Foundation, see

STORY SOURCE: UI Foundation, P.O. Box 4550, Iowa City, Iowa 52244-4550

MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Collins, UI Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics, the University of Iowa Foundation, 800-648-6973 ext. 727,; Writer: Nic Arp

PHOTOS: High-resolution images of Dr. Ignacio Ponseti and Dr. Jose Morcuende are available at and

Web-quality images also are available at and