Operation Change the Deformed Smile

9 September 2016

The Background- What is Cleft Lip & Palate Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that occur when a baby’s lip or mouth do not form properly. This defect also affects the nose too. These birth defects together are commonly referred to as “orofacial clefts” which happen early during pregnancy. A baby can have a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or both1. Every year over 19,000 children in Africa are born with clefts. Though completely treatable, less than half get the treatment they desperately need, and this is often because they are too poor to afford the treatment2.

Two major factors that affect people with cleft lip and palate that relate to health disparities include psychosocial factors, and socio-cultural stigmas. Where there are psychosocial factors, most adolescents with cleft deformity have problems relating to self concept, peer relationships and appearance which in turn affect their self-esteem, social skills and interaction. Sometimes, the effect leads to Socio-cultural Stigma where most cannot eat or speak properly, aren’t allowed to attend school or hold a job. Therefore, they face very difficult lives filled with shame and isolation.

Operation Change the Deformed Smile Essay Example

In some cultures, being born with a cleft is seen as a curse. For instance in Uganda, Africa, every baby born with a cleft is given the name “Ajok” which means literally, “cursed by God. ” Some newborns are killed or abandoned right after birth. The Success Story- A bold step can make a difference In 2005 while still living in Africa, I visited Loma Linda University with my wife. We were privileged to be invited to a meeting with Adventist Health International, one of LLU’s global outreach initiatives, and an organization that I worked for in Nigeria for 10 years.

At the meeting we were informed that Smile Train (a global charity organization for cleft lip and palate treatment) was exploring the possibility of implementing a huge intervention in Africa but was hesitant because they had received feedback from some reliable sources that the deformity was not prevalent in the continent. As Africans we were shocked by this information at the meeting. My wife who was more enthusiastic volunteered to do more research when we returned to Africa as she was more confident of not only its existence, but wide prevalence as well.

That bold step she took made her the pioneer that mobilized and identified healthcare specialists in Africa on behalf of Smile Train, LLU and AHI for a training and strategic planning workshop3. As a result, two Pan African Clefts Lips and Palate Conferences (PACCLIPS) were held in Nigeria in 2006 and 20074. Other national cleft care consortiums were also formed. By 2008, the number of successful surgeries in Africa rose from less than 500 in five years to about 4000 in ten months. Currently, Smile Train records about 12,000 free surgeries per year in Africa5.

The Strategy- An instance of cultural competence and system building The secret of Smile Train’s success story lies in the participatory community mobilization that was employed from the onset. This was achieved through direct interaction and awareness meetings with traditional institutions and other community networks. We contacted local village heads and social clubs to educate them on the myths and misconceptions about the birth defects which unfortunately was a taboo historically.

These in turn helped to pass the new knowledge gained down to the community members. The mobilization became even more acceptable because the surgical services rendered were free. This was intentional because of the socio-economic status of most of the patients. The 2006 and 2007 conferences in Nigeria became the fora to establish a sustainable network of African health care professionals. In 2007 the Pan African Association of Cleft Lip & Palate (PAACLIP) was established to sustain this noble course6.

Currently, Smile Train Africa has about 122 institutional partners with well over 1,000 special surgeons performing surgeries in designated centers across the continent. Conclusion Smile Train’s success story provided great inspiration for me as a business administrator and my wife, who was trained as an attorney. It is one of the key factors that have edged us towards public health and social work as we are involved in today. The humble efforts of 2006 and 2007 continue to encourage us to be catalysts in Africa towards eradicating the wide health and social disparity gap in our continent.

Indeed, the knowledge I acquired in the Health Disparity and Cultural Competence class will be useful tools as I prepare better for my future career in Africa. References 1. CDC – Birth Defects, Facts about Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate – NCBDDD. (n. d. ). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from http://www. cdc. gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/cleftlip. html 2. Smile Train Africa. (n. d. ). Smile Train Africa. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from http://smiletrainafrica. org/about_smile_train_facts. php 3. Thio, P. K. (n. d. ).

Today News – Today Story. Loma Linda University. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from http://www. llu. edu/news/today/today_story. page? id=428 4. Today News – Today Story. (n. d. ). Loma Linda University. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from http://www. llu. edu/news/today/today_story. page? id=1022 5. Smile Train Africa. (n. d. ). Smile Train Africa. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from http://smiletrainafrica. org/ 6. PACCLIP A« Smile Train Stories. (n. d. ). Smile Train Stories. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from http://www. smiletrainorg. wordpress. com/tag/pacclip/

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