NEW YORK, March 1, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For as little as $250 committed toward one cleft repair surgery, as much as $50,000 is put back into the local economy, as former cleft patients go on to contribute to economic productivity and lead full, productive lives in their communities, according to a newly published study featuring Smile Train in the World Journal of Surgery. This amounts to a more than 200x return on investment for a single cleft repair.
The independent study—Economic Valuation of the Global Burden of Cleft Disease Averted by a Large Cleft Charity—measures the economic impact of Smile Train's cleft repair surgical work over 10 years. The study is one of the most comprehensive analyses to date of the economic and public health value of cleft lip and palate repairs in the developing world.
The total economic impact achieved from Smile Train's cleft repair surgeries globally—measured from 2001-2011 across 83 countries where the organization has a footprint—amounts to as much as $20 billion.
"Investment in cleft lip and palate surgical repair has resulted in tremendous economic gain for low and middle-income countries, shining a light on the impact and cost-effectiveness of surgical interventions globally," said Dr. Scott Corlew, one of the study's authors. "Cleft repair surgery greatly lowers a country's surgical disease burden by allowing patients to return to economic productivity and meaningfully participate in their societies, creating a more prosperous and resilient global community."
Cleft is a serious issue in the developing world, particularly in regions where there is great stigmatization around misunderstood birth defects, resulting in ostracism, isolation and, in some cases, even infanticide.
Four-year-old Kodjo, from the town of Akwatia in Ghana's Eastern Region, is just one victim of cleft stigma whose condition nearly cost him his life. When Kodjo was unable to eat or drink for 12 days due to his cleft, neighbors believed he was the child of the river gods and should be drowned as a religious sacrifice, per local custom. On the way to his death, a villager spotted Kodjo and brought him to Dr. Solomon Obiri-Yeboah, a local Smile Train partner surgeon, for a free cleft repair surgery.
After Kodjo's father abandoned his family, Dr. Obiri-Yeboah took the boy under his wing— paying for his education and providing ongoing support throughout his lifetime. Today, Kodjo attends school, enjoys a full circle of friends and has transformed into a confident, engaged member of the community.
"Throughout West Africa and elsewhere, children with cleft are deemed 'spirit children,' witches or demons," said Smile Train's CEO Susannah Schaefer. "Many are forced to live in isolation—or simply killed at birth—and are often barred from getting an education and participating in the larger community. Providing corrective surgery to just one patient may not only save a child's life, but also give him or her the opportunity to become an engaged, productive member of the community, creating a ripple effect of impact that benefits families, communities and entire regions."
The study also finds that total productive life years regained globally as a result of cleft repair surgery—measured in averted disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)—is as high as 4.95 million, or an average of nine years of productive life per person. Cleft palate repairs constituted about two-thirds of the averted global burden of disease, due to the greater disability associated with cleft palate. Cleft lip repairs constituted one-third of the averted disease burden.
"The findings reinforce how investing in strong surgical infrastructures and scalable healthcare solutions promotes the economic health of global communities," said Mackinnon Engen, Vice President of Programs, Smile Train. "By empowering doctors in developing countries with the training and resources to perform cleft repair surgery in their own communities, our 'teach a man to fish' model continues to play a key role in the effort to create a healthier, more productive global population."
"This study provides a critical framework for examining the great economic value of global surgical interventions, paving the way for future studies that document the value and cost-effectiveness of investing in global surgical care," said Corlew.
The study was conducted using data from 547,769 Smile Train patient records of primary cleft procedures. Fifty-eight percent of the records were cleft lip repairs, and 42 percent were cleft palate repairs. More information about the study and its methodology can be found here.
The World Journal of Surgery is the official journal of the International Society of Surgery (ISS). It provides an in-depth, international forum for the most current, most authoritative information on major clinical problems in the fields of clinical and experimental surgery, surgical education, and socioeconomic aspects of surgical care.
About Smile Train
Smile Train is an international children's charity with a sustainable approach to a single, solvable problem: cleft lip and palate. Millions of children in developing countries with untreated clefts live in isolation, but more importantly, have difficulty eating, breathing and speaking. Cleft repair surgery is simple, and the transformation is immediate. Our sustainable model provides training, funding and resources to empower local doctors in 85+ developing countries to provide 100%-free cleft repair surgery and comprehensive cleft care in their own communities.
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SOURCE Smile Train