Best Health and Wellness Program: The Dow Chemical Company
Dow Chemical Company: Changing Lives through Process and Product Innovation
Dow Chemical Company has made a difference in the lives of amputees throughout India with its new PU Foot, process innovation, investment, and volunteer efforts.
Disease, accidents, and other hazards cause thousands of people in India to lose their limbs every year. A majority of these individuals live in poverty and cannot afford the necessary medical care. The impact of a lost limb is severe, affecting one’s quality of life, inflicting emotional scars, restricting mobility, and limiting productivity.
Dow Chemical International Private Limited (Dow India) saw the significant need in India for quality sustainable prosthetic limbs that are accessible and affordable. Given the size of India’s affected population, it was clear that production of these limbs had to be scalable.
Dow India's Jaipur Foot Initiative is Dow's solution to this problem.
First developed in 1968, the original Jaipur Foot was an artificial limb handmade of vulcanized rubber. Although the prosthetics gave individuals some measure of mobility, their inflexibility prevented true freedom of movement. The intensive manufacturing process, requiring hours of skilled labor for each limb, prevented production scalability.
Dow India partnered with Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS) to find a better solution for the amputee. BMVSS is a charitable organization that works for the betterment of amputees in India, by providing artificial lower limbs, calipers, and crutches free-of-cost to the physically challenged. The resulting Jaipur Foot Initiative has been Dow India’s marquee corporate social responsibility program since 2005.
What The Dow Chemical Company Has Accomplished
As one of the world’s leading chemical companies with deep technical expertise in polyurethane applications, Dow—and by extension the Dow India affiliate—was perfectly equipped to support the development of a new foot. Working together with its manufacturing partner, Pinnacle Industries, Dow India developed the next generation prosthetic foot called the Polyurethane Foot, or PU Foot.
The PU Foot is making a positive difference in the lives of thousands of people because it is a better prosthetic foot than the original Jaipur Foot in terms of technical performance, manufacturing process, and financial resources required.
The PU Foot weighs 20 percent less than the previous prosthetic, greatly enhancing comfort. It is an all-terrain prosthetic, and greater flexibility enables recipients to do more than walk comfortably. They may also squat, kneel, crouch, and sit cross-legged. Leading orthopedic experts acknowledge the PU Foot has greater flexibility, comfort, and durability than alternative models.
Its manufacturing process is superior. A computer-controlled injection molding process provides quality control unmatched by handmade products. Production time has been reduced from one hour to eight minutes. Productivity increases exponentially with multiple molds. Costs have been reduced by 25 percent to approximately $35 per limb.
Dow India broadened its support of the Jaipur Foot Initiative by donating the “Jaipur Foot Camp on Wheels,” a fully-equipped mobile workshop that travels through India distributing free Jaipur Foot prosthetics, crutches, and calipers to the physically challenged. The mobile workshop is fully equipped to fabricate artificial limbs and calipers, both of which can be made and fitted by technicians in the vehicle.
Technicians fit up to 20 artificial limbs and 30 calipers per day. Employees volunteer at the three-to-five day mobile camps by assisting patients with fittings and helping them get acclimatized to the new limb.
Why This Project Makes Sense
Compared to the traditional Jaipur Foot, the PU Foot weighs less, costs less, is more flexible, more durable, and is manufactured in a fraction of the time with superior quality control. Simply put, the PU Foot is changing lives.
Dow India is the single largest corporate sponsor of this cause. Through Dow India’s funding, BMVSS has empowered almost 36,000 lives since 2005. In 2012 alone, more than 4,000 amputees were helped directly through Dow India’s support.