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Foot Health Month – a podiatrist's view

Foot Health Month – a podiatrist’s view

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By Emma McConnachie  

June’s Foot Health Month has now come to an end and what a month it has been! At my practice in Stirling we have been run off our feet (yes I know). Even though we have been dealing with the summer rush, we still found time to promote Foot Health Month. The glorious weather we have had these past few weeks has allowed us the perfect opportunity to draw in some passers-by for their free leaflets. We are right next door to the entrance for a GP surgery so armed with our Foot Health Month poster and leaflets, we added in some bunting and a bit of creativity and had a lovely display inside the clinic doors that caught the eye of many a patient from our neighbours. They may not need us right now, but they know where to come when they do and are now brimming with foot health facts that they can share with their family and friends. 

I have been blown away by the efforts put in by practices and departments around the UK too. From in-clinic displays to shop windows to full-on stands in hospitals and local shopping centres, podiatrists have come out in force to shout out about Foot Health Month and why our feet are so important. Our online army has also been mobilised. Both business and personal social media feeds were buzzing with foot facts, patient stories, motivational messages and of course #foothealthmonth2018 – all to help get the word out there that when we think feet we should think podiatrist. 

Despite many efforts over the years, there is still a large proportion of the public who are ignoring their feet. The College of Podiatry commissioned research for this year’s campaign which brought us some sadly not surprising statistics. Whilst the figures will have shocked the public, you and I will have recognised them as something we hear all too often from our patients. The all too familiar tale of “I thought I would fix it myself” with an encore of “I wish I had come to you sooner”. 

Each week the FHM promotional campaign focused on a different theme, often relating to demographic groups that we know need more intervention and education. Whilst we heard some of the more well-known messages about the high-risk foot and summer feet, we also paid special attention to sporting feet to tie in with the World Cup and one of my particular favourites, festival feet. Ever since the trench foot outbreak at Glastonbury in the early noughties this has been an area of interest for me. Amber Kibby and Bob Longworth brought us tales of Welly Leg, impalement by tent peg and more ankle sprains than in a supermodel’s training camp. I’ve seen a fair few “T in the Park Toenails” in my time (I’m trademarking that one) after too many enthusiastic mosh pits resulted in some crush injuries to the tootsies. 

Earlier in the month we saw some valuable contributions from experts Dr Michelle Spruce, Andrew Ayres and Dr Lindsay Hill explaining some of the vital work podiatrists are doing every day in areas such as diabetes and sports injury. The College of Podiatry CEO Steve Jamieson also provided insight into the reasons why Foot Health Month is so important in educating the public and raising awareness of podiatry – and my FHM blog provided slightly lighter relief and covered the vital area of summer feet. 

This whole process was the result of the tireless efforts of The College of Podiatry team which has been working behind the scenes to plan the campaign, develop the materials and keep the infographics, blogs and Twitter feed running. The whole process started at the last Delegates’ Assembly where members asked for more forward planning around our awareness month, and at last year’s AGM in June incoming Director of External Affairs Liz North committed to revamping and improving the campaign. Those of you who attended the College of Podiatry conference in Liverpool last November will have seen the first draft of materials and helped feed into the final designs and packs. Save the dates went out nice and early to media outlets to ensure column inches would be saved, resulting in a wave of stories on foot health across a vast range of publications. Phone interviews and outreach took place with a whole host of journalists throughout June - and all of this took place in parallel with the campaign for the proposed name change of the Society to the College of Podiatry at the AGM. 

I am delighted to say that I was in the room at the Royal College of Nursing last Saturday when our outgoing chair Debbie Delves read out the results that saw 85.6% of the voters ask to change our name. As someone who is deeply involved with promoting our profession to the public and other professions as well as lobbying to policy makers and governments, I know how much of a difference this will make to our public identity. We are small but we are awesome and we need the lung power to shout it from the rooftops! This marks a big step in that process. I feel it rather fitting that the last day of such a successful Foot Health Month marked this change. 

We have gone through a tremendous period of change in my two years on Council, especially in the last nine months and Debbie has guided us through it all. No offence to you Debbie but I was thrilled that you were the last ever Chairman of The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists! June 30th saw us take our first steps into the new era and George Dunn is at the rudder ready to help steer us towards the horizon. He has an amazing crew to help him in the form of the Executive Team, but the jewel in the crown is you. Our members are our biggest asset. You are fantastic. An everyday superhero. You do everything from keeping your regulars pain-free and active to saving limbs. You should be wearing a cape and have your underpants on top of your scrub suit for all to see. Since that might be slightly inappropriate clinical attire you can show off your super powers in other ways. Those of you who participated in Foot Health Month this year produced some amazing results. I’m told that our hashtag appeared on people’s twitter feeds more than one million times. You helped do this. It might have only been a hash tag, a retweet or a share that took you two seconds but together we make a big difference. 

So since you’ve now finished your cuppa and your break has been taken up reading my blog, I shall bid you a final thank you for all your help in the past month in getting the word out and urge you to keep aiming higher, keep tweeting, keep educating your patients, family and friends. Individually we are great, but together we are awesome!