Approximately 7,000 babies will be born with a cleft in the United States this year, a condition caused when tissue in a baby’s upper lip or in the roof of the mouth does not join together completely during pregnancy and leaves an opening, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To promote awareness of this often overlooked condition, a coalition of health and support groups has named July National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month.
“We are pleased to join forces with more than 20 organizations nationwide to raise awareness,” said Richard Kirschner, MD, president of the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA). “ACPA represents professionals who strive to provide optimal care for individuals with oral cleft and craniofacial conditions. Our goal is to spread awareness of these conditions and promote the diverse needs of our patients.”
Despite unique health challenges, those born with cleft and craniofacial conditions can lead fulfilling and accomplished lives. Clefts are usually repaired surgically during infancy, though many children require additional surgeries and treatments through adolescence to correct challenges in breathing, eating, and speaking. Individuals born with cleft lip or palate often need specialized dental or orthodontic care throughout their lives as well.
“This national month of awareness provides an opportunity for dialogue about facial differences and the treatment options currently available,” said Marilyn Cohen, LSLP, president of the Cleft Palate Foundation (CPF). “We hope that by spreading awareness we can bring understanding and education about treatment and prevention.”
The nonprofit ACPA comprises healthcare professionals dedicated to treating birth defects of the head and face through a team care approach. The organization supports the professional community and strives to enhance the quality of team care by providing education and resources, supporting and disseminating research, and acting as an open forum for specialists to communicate.
Acting as the ACPA’s public service arm, the nonprofit CPF serves individuals and families affected by cleft lip and palate and other craniofacial conditions by connecting them to team care, providing education, and offering personal support. It also funds research, hosts conferences, provides Cleftline Teddy Bears to young patients, and awards scholarships to professionals and patients in the cleft lip and palate community.