Trash Into Treasure

Over the past seven years, the Florida O&P Outreach Team (FOOT) has set up and maintained a successful clinic in Guatemala City, Guatemala, for pediatric patients. At a recent visit, the team treated over 45 children with custom O&P devices, which were all casted for and made on location, while simultaneously teaching local practitioners and technicians to continue the care and provide help for their own community. "Every year we improve on the care provided by the FOOT Foundation in Guatemala. Sharing that knowledge with other O&P clinics and practitioners is how we can improve humanity on a greater scale," says Dino M. Scanio, CO/L, founder and clinical director of the FOOT Foundation. In this EDGE Direct online exclusive, he provides tips to help practitioners repurpose used O&P components.

Used O&P parts are generally not used in the United States because of legal considerations and federal and state billing regulations. So what can practitioners do with used components? How about those prosthetic legs that are returned to facilities when a patient passes away? Or the children's orthotic devices that are outgrown? Because it is by far the easiest thing to do, some practitioners discard the devices and components. Others will give them to individuals who claim the items will be used in underdeveloped or resource-limited countries, without any research or proof that the supplies will be used for a humanitarian purpose. Sadly, those items may be sold or traded on the black market. These outcomes help no one.

The best way to make sure used components are going to those who need them the most is to do your homework. There are 13 organizations that have endorsed and signed the International Society of Prosthetics and Orthotics' (ISPO's) Code of Conduct for International Non-Governmental Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Mobility Assistance. The Code suggests that aid should not have political or religious strings attached, that building and supporting local capacity is valued over simply handing out direct services or materials, and that every attempt be made to avoid creating dependence. Contacting one of these organizations ensures that you give to a worthy, ethical organization that is knowledgeable about which components would best be utilized in underdeveloped countries based on the geographic region, local climate, and ease of repair or replacement.

Using reputable organizations also avoids feeding a black market. The fact is, every country has a black market industry of some kind where products and services are traded or sold illegally. In such situations, end users often pay more than they should or trade personal belongings because they have no other option. In underdeveloped countries, orthoses and prostheses are often traded or sold on the black market because local O&P providers do not have access to U.S. supplies. So when you come across someone who asks if you have any supplies to donate for transportation to and use in his or her home country, think twice. Will that person make money off your generous donation? Are those parts being properly used so that the most benefit is obtained? True humanitarian clinics do not make money off donations, and they make sure those with the most need receive proper care. Before you hand your used components to someone who walks into your office, do some research to make sure that person and the organization he or she represents is reputable.

The FOOT Foundation is one of the organizations that has endorsed and signed ISPO's Code of Conduct. It is always in desperate need of pediatric orthotic and prosthetic parts and will even pay for shipping costs. And as a 501(c)3 nonprofit foundation, a donation receipt can be provided for tax purposes.

Knowledge is power, and this kind of knowledge can and will help humanity. Please visit www.footfoundation.org for more details about ongoing humanitarian efforts and how your gift of trash is turned into someone else's treasure for a better life.