National Coalition Calls Attention to Leading Birth Defect Nationwide

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July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month, promoting public awareness of cleft palate and lip. This condition is popularly associated with other countries but often overlooked at home.

Cleftline bears have special cleft lip stitching and offer unique emotional support for children born with clefts. Visit www.cleftline.org to order a bear or donate one to a child in the US.

This national month of awareness provides an opportunity for dialogue about facial differences, the treatment options currently available, and how to prevent more craniofacial conditions.

Raising a call-to-action over a national health concern, more than 20 organizations nationwide have come together to raise awareness of cleft lip and/or cleft palate, an issue deemed one of the most prevalent birth defects in our country. Established by AmeriFace and cleftAdvocate, July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month, promoting public awareness of a condition popularly associated with other countries but often overlooked at home.

In the United States, approximately one of every 700 babies is born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate, a condition created when tissue in the baby’s upper lip or the roof of the mouth does not join together completely during pregnancy and leaves an opening.

Despite unique health challenges, those born with cleft and craniofacial conditions can lead fulfilling, successful, and accomplished lives. 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. Individuals born with cleft lip or palate often need specialized dental or orthodontic care throughout their lives as well.

The causes of orofacial clefts are mostly unknown, though some result from changes in the child’s genes before birth. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that women who smoke during pregnancy or are diagnosed with diabetes before pregnancy have an increased risk of having a child with a cleft. The CDC also found that women who use certain medicines to treat epilepsy, such as topiramate or valproic acid, during the first trimester (the first 3 months) of pregnancy also have an increased risk.

“This condition affects roughly 7,000 of our infants every year in the U.S., and is even more widespread abroad,” says Marilyn Cohen, President of the Cleft Palate Foundation (CPF), “This national month of awareness provides an opportunity for dialogue about facial differences, the treatment options currently available, and how to prevent more craniofacial conditions.”

Created in 1973 to be the public service arm of the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA), CPF is a national non-profit organization providing comprehensive educational materials free to the public, connections to qualified healthcare specialists, family support services, and funding for college scholarships and research. More information about CPF can be found at http://www.cleftline.org or by calling the Cleftline at 800-24-CLEFT (800-242-5338). CPF works closely with ACPA to promote awareness and supply a wide array of resources. While CPF serves individuals and families affected by cleft and craniofacial conditions, ACPA’s complementary mission is concentrated on the specialty treatment providers. The ACPA is a 73-year old non-profit medical society of healthcare professionals dedicated to treating birth defects of the head and face through a team care approach. ACPA supports the professional community and enhances the quality of team care by providing education and resources, supporting and disseminating research, and acting as an open forum for specialists to communicate. President Ron Hathaway adds, “ACPA has been committed to team care since its inception in 1943. We focus on serving professional members, patients and families as well as the public. Together we can have even greater impact in shaping the future.” More information about ACPA can be found at http://www.acpa-cpf.org/ or by calling 919-933-9044.

Media Contacts:
Wendy-Jo Toyama
Executive Director
American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association
wendy(dot)toyama(at)acpa-cpf(dot)org
919-933-9044

Stephanie Williamson, MS
Director of Family Services
Cleft Palate Foundation
stephanie(dot)williamson(at)cleftline(dot)org
919-933-9044

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