Tapping Our Trans-Local Potential for Change

Posts tagged ‘clubfoot’

Improving Global Health: Tapping Our Trans-Local Potential for Change

Featured Speakers of the evening - Back row: Marj Ratel, Ashok Mathur, Dr. Shafique Pirani, Mohammad Zaman, Lyren Chiu, Derek Agyapong-Poku, Jerry Spiegel, Steven Pi. Front row: Shaheen Nanji, Ajay Puri, Dr. Kojo Assante, Joanna Ashworth

This post was written by Shaheen Nanji, Project Co-Director; Douglas Olthof, Project Researcher; and Chloë Straw, Project Research Assistant.

On March 16, 2011 the Engaging Diasporas in Development Project convened the second in its series of public dialogues. The dialogue was entitled Improving Global Health and covered three core themes: (1) the unique skills and experiences of diasporas influencing health; (2) how these experiences are transforming health practices and systems; and (3) tapping the current and potential impacts in Canada and beyond.

The first session opened with an overview of global health by Dr. Jerry Spiegel, an associate professor at the Liu Institute for Global Issues and UBC’s School of Population and Public Health. Dr. Spiegel explained that international health becomes global health when the causes and consequences of health issues circumvent, undermine or are oblivious to the boundaries of the state and thus beyond the capacity of any one nation to address. He also spoke of the huge disparities between the need and the capacity to deliver health services, speaking to the reality that the majority of health care providers (many of whom are from the Global South) are in North America and Europe while the burden of disease is overwhelmingly in Africa and Asia.

With these important points in mind, Ayumi Mathur brought participants into small groups, asking them to consider and discuss what health means to them as individuals. Further adding to this focus on health at the personal level, the group heard from a diverse group of storytellers.

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Vancouver doctor brings a cure for clubfoot to children in Uganda

A Ugandan baby born with the potentially crippling congenital disorder know as "clubfoot." Photo: USCCP

This post was written by Douglas Olthof, Project Researcher and MA in International Studies at Simon Fraser University.

In 1998 Dr. Shafique Pirani returned to Uganda to visit his birthplace and childhood school. A member of the Ismaili diaspora, Dr. Pirani had been among those expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin’s government in 1972. In making preparations to visit the country of his birth, he had not intended to tackle problems of Ugandan public health, but while on that visit he bore witness to a problem that he was uniquely qualified to diagnose and address.

Years before his fateful trip to Uganda, Dr. Pirani had taken a research interest in a congenital musculoskeletal disorder known commonly as clubfoot. This disorder occurs in roughly 1 in 1000 children and, if untreated, leads to deformation of the feet. This can leave the sufferer walking on the sensitive dorsum (top) of the foot, resulting in chronic pain, immobility, ulcerations, infection and, often, stigmatization. At the time of Dr. Pirani’s visit, the most commonly practiced treatment for clubfoot around the world was corrective surgery.

Surgical treatment for clubfoot in Uganda was not an option. In a country of 28 million with a birth rate of 3.5% annually, approximately 1500 Ugandan children are born with clubfoot every year. As late as 2008 the country had 20 practicing orthopedic surgeons, most of whom were concentrated in Kampala and focused on trauma. Dr. Pirani recognized a dire need for alternative treatments for clubfoot in Uganda that could be economically and socially feasible.

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