Cleft Lip Surgeries Boost Economies

Surgery_health_economyIn developing countries, more than 170,000 children are born each year with cleft lip or cleft palate. These are facial and oral malformations that develop early in pregnancy where the child lacks sufficient tissues in the mouth or lip area and the available tissue cannot join together.

Cleft lips and palates disproportionately impact the developing world. In parts of Asia, South America and Africa, for example, babies born with cleft lip or palate often go untreated due to a lack of medical resources.

In some communities, children with cleft lip or palate are even ostracized or killed. Many are forced to live in isolation due to the stigma that surrounds the physical malformation. Because the condition causes a speech impediment, many sufferers cannot attend school or find work, as reported by Huffington Post.

Repairing this condition, however, requires only a simple surgery costing $250. The surgery can generate significant positive economic ripple effects. The cleft charity Smile Train predicts that performing a single cleft repair surgery puts $50,000 back into the economy, as that patient can then go on to lead a full life.

“It allows patients to return to economic productivity and meaningfully participate in their societies,” said Dr. Scott Corlew, an author of the study conducted by Smile Train: Economic Valuation of the Global Burden of Cleft Disease Averted by a Large Cleft Charity.

Smile Train and other charities like it provide free cleft repair surgery. They also provide the necessary training, facilities for surgeons to perform the procedure and offer the financial support necessary to maintain high standards of care.

According to this independent study, the total economic impact achieved as a result of cleft repair surgeries worldwide, measured across 83 countries between 2001 and 2011, amounted to $20 billion.

Michelle Simon

Photo: Flickr