New voluntary organization aims to promote information about cleft palate, lip

Lack of public awareness of cleft palate (the roof of the mouth) or lip can, if not treated soon after birth or at least during the first year, cause psychological and eating problems.

September 30, 2014 18:14
2 minute read.
Harelip surgery on Uighur child

Harelip surgery on Uighur child. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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A joint Israeli-American voluntary group named Sfat Halev (Language of the Heart) will finance activity to make parents with newborns suffering from the congenital cleft palate or cleft lip defect, aware of the need for urgent surgery and provide them medical and psychological help.

Every year, an average of 600 infants are born with the defect, which is an aesthetic problem as well as the cause of functional difficulties.

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Although plastic surgery to repair the defect is included in the basket of health services and paid for by health funds, many neonatal departments where babies with such defects are born do not brief parents on what they should do for help, according to the organization.

Lack of public awareness of cleft palate (the roof of the mouth) or lip can, if not treated soon after birth or at least during the first year, cause psychological and eating problems. The nonprofit group includes parents of such children and will function with help from medical advisers.

Sam Waldman, chairman of Sfat Halev, said that as a result of Israeli experiences with the condition, the volunteers felt an urge to help others. “We must supplement the information that parents have because we know the defect has such a longterm effect if not treated quickly,” he said. Babies who do not undergo surgery during their first year can develop difficulty swallowing, eating, hearing and breathing. “As it is one of the most common congenital defects, our organization is needed to promote access to information by digital and printed means,” said Waldman.

Before plastic surgery, they need special eating aids, subsidization of private medical care and emotional support for the parents. The organization also initiates medical conferences for doctors and workshops for parents.

Cleft lip (called cheiloschisis) and cleft palate (palatoschisis) are caused by abnormal facial development during pregnancy. A cleft is a fissure or opening and can – much less often – affect other parts of the face including the eyes, ears, nose, cheeks and forehead.

Cleft palate is a condition in which the two plates of the skull that form the hard palate (roof of the mouth) are not completely joined.

The soft palate is in these cases cleft as well. In most cases, cleft lip is also present.

Untreated in time it can cause social anxiety as well as physical problems.

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