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Medical / Therapeutic

To understand the medical / therapeutic issues surrounding people with cerebral palsy (CP), it is best to divide the discussion the three basic building blocks of care: cause, diagnosis and treatment.

The 3 medical and therapeutic issues

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.

Early diagnosis

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.

Effective treatment

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.


Stories of change

New developments in CP diagnosis and knowledge about the best evidence-based treatment:


Boy in wheelchair and parent

The House of Hope – run by Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT) – offers a seating service in the Kilimanjaro Region which is regarded as the best in the country.

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A online tool promotes best practice, "abilities-oriented" approach to management of cerebral palsy (CP) in children and youth.

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To meet the needs of children  with disabilities in rural Bangladesh, the Tauri Foundation have developed a program for the community-based rehabilitation of rural children with disabilities though promotion of mobility, income and education (MIE).

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World Hope International Program, Enable The Children, aims to improve the health care outcomes and quality of life for children with CP in the West African country of Sierra Leone.

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When planning to develop a Bangladesh Cerebral Palsy Register, the team behind it didn’t realize how much more their project would achieve. Their excellent work has been recognized with the World Cerebral Palsy Day Medical Therapeutic Award.

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When Malamulele Onward recognized that it was parents themselves who were changing the game in South Africa’s deep rural communities, a plan was put in place to harness their influence.

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Dr Thapa and patient in Nepal

Each year for the past 7 years, a genuinely life-changing initiative has been restoring the dignity of more than 400 Nepalese children living with cerebral palsy.

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Research now available suggests that an extraordinarily common (and usually fairly harmless) virus that circulates widely in our community is a contributing factor in the number of babies born with cerebral palsy.

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Canada's Dr Peter Rosenbaum has made a significant contribution to shifting the way we think about, treat and advise families of people with cerebral palsy.

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Yana Wilson

Researchers now think that up to 35 per cent of cerebral palsy cases may have some genetic link. A new international collaboration aims to find the answers.

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It takes passion and dedication to innovate a game-changing tool for children with cerebral palsy (CP), traits that Dr Brian Hoare has in abundance. His CPtoys™ app makes toys-as-therapy an easy choice.

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Cerebral Palsy (CP) Registers play a critical role in the provision of accurate data for public health planning and interventions. Meet Dr Gulam Khandaker whose dreams of a CP Register in Bangladesh are taking shape.

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NEWSFLASH: A team of experts has now published leading-edge international guidelines that are set to revolutionise the time it takes to diagnose cerebral palsy in very young children. Here's the story from 2016...

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A simple but intensive program is the basis of ground breaking research in Australia to help improve outcomes for infants with cerebral palsy (CP).

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A successful community-based participatory training program is creating better futures for young children with cerebral palsy and their families in Uganda.

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Dr Iona Novak

An international effort is underway to create a series of clinical guidelines for the diagnosis and most effective interventions for cerebral palsy.

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Dr Christa Einspieler

Making early diagnosis more accessible, so that babies with CP can get a head-start on life.

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About cerebral palsy

Use these infographic posters about cerebral palsy to educate and inform doctors, teachers and other members of the community.

What is cerebral palsy? infographic

Cerebral palsy: diagnosis and treatment infographic