Global advocate for podoconiosis
March 19, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Footwork, a new global initiative to advocate for podoconiosis, has been launched by Dr Gail Davey, Reader in Global Health at BSMS. As one of the few readily-preventable and treatable neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), Footwork’s vision is for a world free of podoconiosis in our lifetime. In her role as Executive Director, she is leading this collaborative project which brings together over 15 private and public partners to advance advocacy for and prevention and treatment of podoconiosis.
Podoconiosis is a non-infectious elephantiasis found in highland tropical areas where shoes are frequently not worn and barefoot farmers cultivate in volcanic clay soil, allowing irritant mineral particles to cause damage to the lymphatic system in the legs. Causing the disfigurement, debilitation and ostracism of an estimated 4 million people or more globally, the disease hinders livelihoods, quality of life and development in at least 10 tropical countries.
Dr Davey explains the impact this initiative will have: "Footwork will help bring a spotlight to this long-overlooked disease. Podoconiosis is readily preventable by wearing shoes and treatable through a relatively simple but critical regimen of foot-washing, off-the-shelf ointment or emollients, use of compression bandages and skilfully-applied lower-leg massage to aid lymphatic drainage. Wearing shoes not only helps prevent podoconiosis, but also a wide variety of foot-related afflictions such as wounds, parasitic worms, tetanus, Madura foot, jiggers and snakebite. Footwork will help enable shoes to be thought of as 'the next bed-nets'."
Dr Gail Davey’s work as a world-leading researcher of podoconiosis has been profiled in the Lancet, (17 March 2012) see article. More information about BSMS’s contribution to podoconiosis research in infectious disease control, genetics and ethics can be seen in a short film on the BSMS Research page.
Footwork aims to achieve its vision of the eradication of 'podo', as it is commonly known, through a strategic combination of advocacy and awareness efforts, new research and data collection, and propagation of control interventions.
A new website has been launched in conjunction with the initiative: www.podo.org, which will serve as a central source of information on the disease as well as treatment, research, and an online community for those actively working with podoconiosis in the field.
Footwork is led by an international and multidisciplinary Steering Committee of specialists and advocates from Brighton and Sussex Medical School, WHO Department for Control of NTDs; the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis; the Center for Neglected Tropical Diseases, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the Global Network for NTDs; Children Without Worms; the International Foundation for Dermatology; International Orthodox Christian Charities; Mossy Foot UK; National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health; the Research Foundation for Tropical Disease and the Environment, Buea, Cameroon; the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative at Imperial College, London; the UK Coalition Against NTDs; and TOMS Shoes.
Dr. Lorenzo Savioli, Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Department for Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases comments, "WHO fully supports this laudable initiative. Podoconiosis is a neglected condition that mainly affects marginalized populations. We strongly encourage projects aimed at raising awareness about this disease."