Early intervention program for infants with cerebral palsy
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) have awarded nearly $1.2 million dollars towards a collaborative research project to implement evidence-based guidelines for the early detection of cerebral palsy in young children.
Each year 600 Australians are born with cerebral palsy (CP), the most common childhood physical disability. One third of children diagnosed will never walk, and fifty percent have an intellectual disability, limiting independence and employment opportunities.
Despite most cases of cerebral palsy resulting from an injury to the developing brain prior to, or around the time of birth, only 26% of infants are diagnosed before 6 months of age, delaying early treatment. Early diagnosis enables earlier intervention and prevention of further complications.
The project will address a clear evidence-to-practice gap by implementing international clinical guidelines on early detection of cerebral palsy. The project will also involve strategies to support parental mental health.
“It is such a thrill to see researchers from around Australia coming together to help babies at risk of cerebral palsy and their families. If we can bring down the age of diagnosis we could take advantage of the brain’s maximal growth and its ability to recover better from an injury. It could also allow for the administration of new therapies as they become available” said Professor Nadia Badawi, Chair of Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA) and Medical Director of the Grace Centre for Newborn Care at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.
Professor Badawi is one of the chief investigators of the study, together with Professor Iona Novak and Dr Cathy Morgan (pictured above at the Early Detection Clinic operated by CPA). The three work closely together in clinical care and research at CPA, an organisation committed to helping those living with CP through care and by supporting cutting edge research.
Professor Russell Dale, head of the Kids Neuroscience Centre at Kids Research and paediatric neurologist at The Children's Hospital at Westmead is also a principal investigator of the study set to benefit thousands of sick children.
The partners involved in this project are leaders in the field of CP management across Australia. Interstate partners of The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Cerebral Palsy Alliance also collaborating on the project are the Royal Children’s Hospital, the Royal Women’s Hospital, Monash Health, the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital and Children's Health Queensland.
Collectively the investigators have worked together for over a decade to establish the evidence-base of early detection of CP and it is now imperative that these findings be translated into policy and practice to improve health outcomes for children with CP.