Kudos to The Academy for its recognition of “Smile Pinki” and to The Smile Train for the wonderful work it does throughout the world. There are indeed thousands of children born with cleft lip and palate and other craniofacial conditions that need and deserve the care given by The Smile Train and other international organizations.
I believe it is also important that the public realizes the needs of such children right here in our own country. Cleft lip and palate is the most commonly occurring birth condition. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this condition occurs once in every 600 live births, making it a startlingly common occurrence; and the incidence is not declining. The incidence in our Native American, Hispanic, and Asian populations is even higher.
As the medical director of The Craniofacial Center at The University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago and the national president of AmeriFace (www.AmeriFace.org) we work with patients and families affected by this condition every day. We know that many of these families struggle daily to secure the care required to provide functional and psychosocial normalcy for their children.
A child born with a cleft lip and palate requires the care of a team of medical and dental specialists and allied health professionals from infancy into young adulthood. Frequent doctor’s visits for pediatrics, surgery, hearing, speech, dental care, orthodontics, prosthodontics, and psychology are required during the early life of the child. There are some medical insurance companies in the United States that cover these services while many others deny requests for this care. Most Medicaid programs across the country do not cover critical services such as psychological testing and counseling, speech therapy, orthodontics, and hearing problems related to a cleft.
AmeriFace is a national organization founded in 1991 to provide information and emotional support to individuals with facial differences and their families and increase public understanding through awareness programs and education. We frequently assist families in dealing with insurance companies to try to obtain coverage for the many treatments necessary for the child with a cleft. Because we are not always successful in securing insurance coverage, we have launched a national program, The Face of Change.
In the first year of the program, we are seeking pro bono care from doctors and other care givers for at least one child born with a cleft or other craniofacial condition in each of the fifty states. This could be a surgical procedure, orthodontic care, speech therapy, psychological counseling, treatment for a hearing loss, or any other cleft/craniofacial-related care that has been denied by medical insurance and is also not covered by any government or community health care program. We hope to expand the program to include more children so that no child in America will be denied the care they deserve.
We anticipate that bringing these domestic issues to light will challenge the American public to be part of the solution right here at home. Together we can make a world of difference in a world of facial differences.
David J. Reisberg, DDS, President