Addressing the cause
There is no single cause of CP, rather, a sequence of events, either before, during or after birth that can lead to an injury in a baby’s developing brain. For most babies born with CP in developed countries, the cause remains unknown. Only a very few are as a result of complications at birth (e.g. asphyxia or lack of oxygen).
In the developing world, the number of preventable cases of CP is much higher and could be addressed if mothers and babies had better access to good medical care, and if primary clinicians had access to better information and tools. That is a problem that we can begin to solve right now.
There is no single test that offers a definitive diagnosis of CP. Effective diagnosis may involve a combination of tests such as a CT scan or MRI (which are not widely available) and clinical assessment (for which many primary care givers have not been trained). The net impact is that CP is often diagnosed too late. That means that children miss the vital care and motor enrichment during the critical months of brain development after birth and, possibly, the opportunity to lessen the impact of CP.
While many governments offer healthcare for all, access to specialised therapy is not universally available. There are very specific physical, occupational, speech and cognitive therapies that have proven most successful for people with CP. Even when the condition is diagnosed early, too many of our community members lack access to the therapies they need. Not just during monthly, weekly or daily clinical visits, but for the other 99% of a person’s life when they are at home with family members and caregivers.
Clearly, more progress must be made in CP research, but we can also have an immediate impact by simply providing better information to the critical medical and therapeutic specialists that are on the front line of care. Tools and guides that translate evidence for these professionals (and people with CP and family members) that cut through the noise and provide clarity about CP diagnosis and treatment are vitally important.