July marks National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month. The American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA) and Cleft Palate Foundation (CPF) want to use the campaign to raise public awareness of a condition commonly associated with other countries but often overlooked at home.

“We are pleased to join forces with more than 20 organizations nationwide to raise awareness,” says Richard Kirschner, MD, president of ACPA. “ACPA represents professionals who strive to provide optimal care for individuals with oral cleft and craniofacial conditions. Our goal is to spread awareness of these conditions and promote the diverse needs of our patients.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 7,000 babies will be born with a cleft in the United States this year, a condition created when tissue in the baby’s upper lip or the roof of the mouth does not join together completely during pregnancy and leaves an opening.

“This national month of awareness provides an opportunity for dialogue about facial differences and the treatment options currently available,” says Marilyn Cohen, LSLP, president of CPF. “We hope that by spreading awareness we can bring understanding and education about treatment and prevention.”

Despite unique health challenges, those born with cleft and craniofacial conditions can lead fulfilling, successful, and accomplished lives. Clefts are usually repaired surgically in the first year of life, though many children require additional surgeries and treatments through adolescence to correct challenges to breathing, eating, or speech development. Individuals born with cleft lip or palate often need specialized dental or orthodontic care throughout their lives as well.

National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month was established by AmeriFace and cleftAdvocate.