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.
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.
Stories of change
New developments in CP diagnosis and knowledge about the best evidence-based treatment:
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.
A online tool promotes best practice, "abilities-oriented" approach to management of cerebral palsy (CP) in children and youth.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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