GSE helps provide ‘legs to stand on’
Top: GSE team member Mary Jo Geyer meets with a patient. Bottom: Rotary Foundation Trustee Samuel Okudzeto addresses the conference. Photos courtesy of Mary Jo Geyer
A Group Study Exchange team from District 7300 (Pennsylvania, USA) broke new ground in May when it visited Ghana to participate in the first International Cross-Diseases Conference on Lower-Limb Care in the Developing World.
The team, composed of leading experts in diseases of the lower extremities, was led by Georgia Petropoulos Muir, current president of the Rotary Club of Oakland (Pittsburgh).
In concentrating on disease prevention and treatment, one of the areas of focus of The Rotary Foundation’s Future Vision Plan, the Group Study Exchange (GSE) served as a prototype of the vocational training teams that are being funded during the plan’s three-year pilot phase. (All districts will begin to participate in the plan in July 2013.) Foundation Trustee Samuel A. Okudzeto outlined the key features of the plan during his keynote address at the conference.
The conference theme, “Legs to Stand On,” shared the name of an ongoing project that targets disabling diseases and conditions affecting feet and lower limbs.
Legs to Stand On “includes both the development of technical tools and the co-implementation of projects to prevent disability in developing countries,” said Mary Jo Geyer, a physical therapist at the University of Pittsburgh and a GSE team member, in a report on the conference. “Two of the leading causes of global disability are diabetes and lymphatic filariasis [elephantiasis], affecting over 500 million persons. Somewhere in the world, a lower-limb amputation occurs every 30 seconds due to diabetes.”
The conference focused on achieving a consensus among international and national experts on the technical tools needed to guide the implementation of programs for foot and lower-limb care in developing countries. It produced a vital framework for preventing disease, disability, and premature death from chronic wounds, edema, and joint limitations.
“Ghana has been targeted as one of the first countries where the cross-diseases approach to community-based foot and lower-limb care will be implemented,” said Geyer, who heads a University of Pittsburgh project for self-management of chronic edema/lymphedema in individuals with mobility limitations. Conference participants are drafting training manuals for nurses, technicians, community volunteers, patients, and their caregivers in Ghana.
“We also anticipate beginning three-year pilot projects to implement comprehensive lower-limb care programs in selected countries [including India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Togo] as funding becomes available,” Geyer said.
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