Each year in the U.S., thousands of babies are born with a cleft, occurring when tissue in the baby’s upper lip or roof of the mouth does not join together completely during pregnancy. July has been proclaimed Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness Month in the state of North Carolina, and the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA) is raising awareness about the condition – and the countless individuals living with a facial difference nationwide – by hosting several special events throughout the month.
“ACPA is excited to join this nationwide effort to raise awareness,” says Robert J. Havlik, M.D., ACPA president. “Our goal is to spread the word about cleft and craniofacial conditions and to promote the diverse needs of our patients this month and throughout the year. Having July designated for this cause provides a great opportunity to host dialogue about facial differences and the treatment options currently available.”
Cleft and craniofacial conditions are commonly associated with other countries, though they also occur frequently in the U.S. Cleft lip, with or without a cleft palate, is one of the most common birth defects in the U.S., affecting about 7,000 babies annually according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Here are five key facts about clefts and craniofacial conditions, their impact and treatments:
1. Clefts are usually repaired surgically in the first year of life, though many children require additional surgeries and treatments through adolescence to correct challenges to breathing, eating or speech development.
2. Individuals born with cleft lip or palate often need specialized dental or orthodontic care throughout their lives as well.
3. There is no single factor related to the cause of cleft. Sometimes clefts run in families and in some cases have been linked to environmental factors.
4. Despite unique health challenges, those born with cleft and craniofacial conditions lead fulfilling, successful and accomplished lives.
5. Coordinated care is the best approach for successful surgical repair. Multidisciplinary teams approved by the ACPA are located across the nation and are comprised of qualified professionals from medical, surgical, dental, speech and allied health disciplines.
ACPA has several events planned throughout the month in Chapel Hill. On July 8, the association will host Storytime at Kidzu Children’s Museum. A fundraiser will be held at Orangetheory Fitness in Chapel Hill on July 15. Both events are open to the public.
For the July 20th Durham Bulls game against Lehigh Valley IronPigs, ACPA will have a section reserved for 100 individuals in the cleft-craniofacial community. Additionally, Wendy-Jo Toyama, ACPA executive director, Robert J. Havlik, MD, ACPA president, and Amelia F. Drake, M.C., ACPA president-elect, will appear on the Nurse Practitioner’s Show on channel 110 of Sirius/XM radio on July 6.
For more information about these events, please visit ACPA’s blog. To learn more about the association and cleft and craniofacial conditions, please visit acpa-cpf.org.
Contact: Amanda DeWeese