AOAF history
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May 18, 2015Posted on


The road to greater engagement with low income countries

The AO Alliance Foundation is one of the most ambitious expressions so far of a determination to reduce bone trauma morbidity and mortality in low income countries. We accomplished this by encouraging and supporting best practices in patient care and the uptake of appropriate trauma and orthopedic operative and nonoperative principles. Looking back at the milestones on the road to the AO Alliance Foundation, it can be seen that reaching this level of commitment in low income countries was inevitable.

1958 – AO

AO (Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Osteosynthesefragen – Association for the Study of Internal Fixation) was inaugurated in 1958 by 13 Swiss surgeons. Having experienced at first hand the benefits of internal fixation of bone fractures using implants, they set out to promote the study of this relatively new branch of surgery and to spread the news to others.

Right from the early days the AO was outward-looking, establishing reciprocal contacts with centers of excellence in Europe, North America, Asia and Latin America, and disseminating information to surgeons, trainees and ORPs throughout the world.

1984 – AO Foundation

AO Foundation was set up to formalize AO’s international activities. It comprised a global network of surgeons dedicated to improving fracture care worldwide through documentation, teaching, research and instrumentation.

1999 – AO SEC

As an organization with an international outlook, it was very clear to the AO Foundation that trauma care in low income countries suffered in comparison with wealthier parts of the world, not just because of financial constraints, but also because of a lack of trained personnel and access to modern technology. The AO Socio Economic Committee (AO SEC) was set up to begin to address this situation. For more than 15 years it played a major role in projects in 19 countries in Africa, 11 in Asia Pacific and 2 in Latin America. Fellowships, customized courses and instructions from visiting surgeons and mostly local faculty were offered to medical personnel in low income countries to raise fracture care standards in a locally sustainable way.

2015 – AO Alliance Foundation

While the education and clinical research activities of AO SEC continued to expand, it became clear that the needs to improve fracture care in low income countries required a more focused organization to take over: the AO Alliance Foundation was officially inaugurated in 2015 as a separate legal entity independent of the AO Foundation. It is dedicated to build capacities that strengthen and empower the care of musculoskeletal injuries in low income countries.

As a first step the AO Alliance Foundation is consolidating and strengthening existing AO SEC projects, finding new opportunities to build up local fracture care capacity and set up sustainable country projects to achieve high standards of trauma care. New projects are underway to assess local needs and create customized education offerings, initially starting in seven low income countries: four in Africa and three in Asia.