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Are Shoes 'The Next Bed-Nets'?: Announcing Footwork, the International Podoconiosis Initiative


BRIGHTON, England, March 15, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Footwork, the newly-formed International Podoconiosis Initiative, brings together private and public partners to advance advocacy for and prevention and treatment of podoconiosis, popularly known as 'podo', one of the few readily-preventable and treatable Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). Footwork envisions a world free of podoconiosis in our lifetime.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20120315/DC71433)

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. 

"Footwork will help bring a spotlight to this long-overlooked disease," says Dr. Gail Davey, Footwork's Executive Director and Reader in Global Health at Brighton and Sussex Medical School as well as the world's foremost expert on podoconiosis. "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 skillfully-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. 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."

Professor David Molyneux, of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis adds, "This is the first time that international partners have had a forum through which to begin to address the problem of podoconiosis."

Footwork aims to achieve its vision of the eradication of 'podo' through a strategic combination of advocacy/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 NTDsChildren 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.

Blake Mycoskie, founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS Shoes said, "Eliminating podoconiosis in our lifetime is a bold and achievable goal. It will take passionate people from across health, research, treatment, advocacy, government and commercial entities working together to apply our talents and resources to speed up the journey to restoring a brighter future for millions of people in need."

Footwork: the International Podoconiosis Initiative was formed in March 2012 to bring together public and private partners to support prevention and treatment of, and advocacy for, podoconiosis.  Its vision is a world free of podoconiosis in our lifetimes.  Footwork, found at www.podo.org, is a project of Washington DC-based New Venture Fund, an IRS-registered 501(c)3 charitable organization. The Initiative is hosted by the UK's Brighton & Sussex Medical School, which serves as an international hub for podoconiosis research.

Contact: Dr. Gail Davey; g.davey@bsms.ac.uk or +44 (0) 7834-494963.

Website: www.podo.org

SOURCE Footwork: The International Podoconiosis Initiative

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