NEW YORK — BBC International is debuting a major initiative to improve the lives of children impacted by clubfoot, the most common deformity among newborns.
The company has teamed up with the University of Iowa, the Ponseti International Association and Clubfoot Solutions to produce and distribute a special device called the Iowa Brace that’s critical to maintaining the effects of correctional procedures. BBC also plans to donate the first 30,000 braces it produces.
“We eat, sleep and breathe children’s footwear, and we are sold all around the world,” said BBC founder and CEO Bob Campbell. “We have a responsibility to deliver a product that helps these children walk again and be able to wear regular shoes.”
About 175,000 babies around the world are born with clubfoot every year — and approximately a million children, most in developing countries, are walking around untreated.
Half of infants affected have the birth defect in one foot, while the other half show it in both; it is twice as common in males as it is in females, according to UI research.
The BBC partnership was formed after academics and clinicians at UI saw the need for a high-quality, affordable brace for children with clubfoot, especially in low-resource countries.
“We pooled our expertise to … identify the critical design features needed in the shoe part of the brace,” said Thomas Cook, director of global operations for UI’s Ponseti International Association. “Fortunately, BBC stepped up to translate our design concept into a real device.”
BBC is now providing its global resources to manufacture and deliver the brace, which is an important final step in clubfoot treatment.
Doctors start the correction process by using the Ponseti Method, which employs gentle manipulations to gradually realign the bones of the foot.
Plaster casts are then applied and changed out weekly. After a series of four to six casts over four to six weeks, the deformed foot is expected to look and function as normal.
It’s critical to continue treatment even after this point, and that’s where the brace comes in. A child must sleep in the product until the age of four to prevent the deformity from recurring.
Sample product was sent out this summer. Now, deliveries are underway to distribution sites in countries including Nigeria, Pakistan, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Indonesia, Jordan and the U.S.
“The more we studied this, the more we realized we can make a real difference,” said Don Wilborn, president and CFO of BBC. “We want to change lives.”