MINERVA BC NEWMAN
LAPULAPU CITY – Smile Train celebrated a year full of smiles as the first Comprehensive Cleft Care (CCC) Center in Cebu turned one on August 16 that has treated over 120 patients and with more than 100 patients receiving life-changing cleft surgery at the Center.
Smile Train’s Comprehensive Cleft Care (CCC) Center in Cebu was established at the Allegiant Regional Care (ARC) Hospitals in Lapulapu City on August 16 last year in partnerships with the hospital, Mabuhay Deseret Foundation and the local government of Lapulapu City.
“Our partnership with Smile Train has allowed us to offer many Filipino patients hope and a chance to experience life-changing treatment for free. With the first comprehensive cleft care center in the region, we are able to cater to more patients and help them learn more about Smile Train’s programs of holistic care for those with cleft,” Mabuhay Deseret Foundation Country Director, Melody Ledesma said.
Smile Train Philippines Program Director, Jun Grimares said that the organization has reached another milestone in its goal of providing care for every cleft-affected individual, and a year full of smiles is just the beginning.
“We are confident that we will be able to reach more Filipinos affected with cleft and help provide them with access to the necessary comprehensive cleft care support they need,” Grimares added in a media briefing during the Media Familiarity Tour at the CCC Center at ARC Hospitals on August 16.
The organization remains committed to providing free comprehensive cleft care for patients in Cebu and other regions in Visayas, Grimares bared that comprehensive cleft care is intended to ensure long-term, successful rehabilitation for cleft patients including essential treatments beyond cleft surgery.
These include diagnosis in understanding cleft, feeding and nutrition, surgery, dental and EENT care, speech services, orthodontics and counseling and support, Grimares said.
According to Dr. Alex Alegrado, Medical Director of Allegiant Regional Care (ARC) Hospitals Inc., that many patients have also approached the hospital inquiring about the process for receiving treatment.
“Contrary to the notion that services are paused due to the pandemic, we are happy to share the cleft team at ARC continues to provide life-changing treatment for those in need. We are happy that many of our beneficiaries continue to and are eager to go through the process of treatment. By partnering with Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft-focused organization, we are able to help Filipinos experience the global standard of comprehensive cleft care,” Alegrado said.
Alegrado said, after one year of partnership, about 120 surgeries so far have been performed at ARC Hospitals and there are 300 cases now which are being prioritized.
Grimares went on that more than 540 babies are born each day with a cleft and every three minutes, another baby is born with a cleft. It’s number 1 goal is to give every child with a cleft the opportunity for a full and healthy life.
Smile Train said, more than 1.5M cleft surgeries for people of all ages were performed and sponsored free cleft treatment in more than 90 countries and offered essential non-surgical cleft care services in 35 countries with over 1,100 partner hospitals and over 2,100 trained medical professionals worldwide.
Challenges the organization faces in treating cleft patients
According to Grimares, access to cleft treatment for those in need is still a big challenge at the community level due to lack of awareness, information, poverty and parents’ embarrassment to show patients with cleft.
Through its programs, Smile Train’s goal is to connect all patients to the care they need. Relying
on its network of more than 50 partners, Smile Train has managed to reach more patients across the country, bringing the multiple benefits of free comprehensive cleft care to patients who need it most.
“But it is not enough. We need the community, the media and all our partners to spread awareness and information that there is such an organization that provides support to cleft surgeries and essential treatments,” Grimares said.
Smile Train has launched several comprehensive cleft centers with its partners, such as the Philippine Band of Mercy and Marikina St. Vincent General Hospital in Metro Manila. Through the help of its partners, Smile Train has been able to support more than 70,000 cleft surgeries in the Philippines to date, he bared.
Grimares said that after a year since it established the first Comprehensive Cleft Care (CCC) Center in Cebu, Smile Train continues to work towards improving access to cleft treatment for those in need in the province and across the Visayas.
Speech therapy sessions for post-cleft surgery
Speech therapy sessions are also provided as part of the comprehensive cleft care ensuring that patients access speech therapy which is vital for their continued care. Patients coming from as far as Bohol, Leyte, Samar, and Negros Oriental benefit from the center’s numerous services, which also include nutrition counseling and orthodontic treatment.
Smile Train promotes comprehensive cleft care, recognizing that an untreated cleft can cause various health complications such as malnutrition, difficulty breathing and speaking, hearing loss, mental health challenges, and even premature death.
Leveraging on its telehealth network, Smile Train brings the services of a multidisciplinary team of specialists to promote programs that include nutritional support, orthodontic care, psychosocial support, and speech therapy with pilot programs in dental care and ENT services.
To know more about Smile Train’s global efforts and to donate, please visit smiletrain.org. To learn more about Smile Train’s local programs in the Philippines and to refer a patient in need, visit smiletrain.ph/get-help. Follow Smile Train Philippines on Instagram @SmileTrainPH and like them on Facebook at @SmileTrain.