This July, we would like to welcome Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention month. Cleft and craniofacial defects are severe issues affecting children around the world. In the U.S alone, over seven thousand children per year are born with a cleft lip or palate. The month of action is organized by NCCAPM, the organizer of a large group of concerned organizations and individuals working together to combat this crisis. Throughout the month, the goal of all participating organizations in this CDC supported event is to increase public understanding of the subject by providing specific information about cleft and cranial defects, as well as other conditions affecting the face and head of children.
Now, you may be reading this, interested, and passionate, but wondering what exactly these defects are and how they affect children. First of all, we have cleft lip, which is the most widely recognized of these maladies. This occurs when, during pregnancy, a baby’s upper lip does not connect from both sides- this results in a hole in the upper lip that can go as far as inside of the child’s nose, and can occur at any point on a child’s upper lip. The slightly lesser known cleft palate is a similar situation, except it occurs inside of the mouth. When a child suffers from a cleft palate, it means that their palate, or the roof of their mouth, is not fully sealed, and has an opening; this exposes inner nasal tissue.
Unfortunately, we do not know a tremendous amount about the causes of cleft lips or palates. There are multiple theories, ranging from genes to environmental factors- there does seem to be some consensus that contact with certain substances during pregnancy, as well as having certain preexisting conditions of their own, can adversely affect a child’s odds of developing one of these conditions- among a myriad of other issues. These pregnancy risk factors include cigarette smoking, diabetes, and use of various medications, especially those for epilepsy treatment.
In order to gather more information on the causes of cleft and craniofacial issues, the Center for Disease Control funds the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, or NBDPS, to gather as much information about these diseases as possible and better determine effective prevention techniques for them. As far as treatment goes, the action taken is dependent on the severity of the condition. Also taking into account various developmental and medical needs, a child’s treatment options are decided based on the potential challenges that their impediment could give them: these include in the social, learning, developmental, and physical categories. Frequently, surgery is recommended and performed to correct the defect.
As far as awareness goes, July is the perfect month to get out and start educating others on these issues. Joining NCCAPM.org is a fantastic way to start, and their myriad of resources- from apparel to connections and information- is a phenomenal resource that one can use to make this July the most effective awareness month yet.