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Cleft lip and palate is a birth deformity affecting 35000 child births annually in India alone. This condition leads to a disfigured face and compromised oral function. The treatment for a child with cleft lip and palate starts as early as 4 months of age and goes until adulthood. It requires a multidisciplinary approach, with an active involvement of pediatricians, cleft surgeons, anaesthetists, pedodontists, orthodontists, ENT surgeons, speech and language pathologists etc.
SGT University under the Dashmesh Educational Charitable Trust recognized this condition as a healthcare problem that required a competent team of professionals. It was decided that a dedicated cleft lip and palate centre be started to help these underprivileged children and their families. The proposed centre was to be a single point of contact for these families who required a constant follow up and multiple visits to address different aspects of cleft care at different stages of a child’s life. These included, feeding and immunization counseling right after birth or at the first visit, pediatric care to monitor and ensure correct milestones of development, speech assessments, surgical repairs of the defect, pedodontic and orthodontic interventions etc. The university had all the facilities available for providing comprehensive cleft care and thus began the journey of NavMuskaan Cleft Lip & Palate Centre.
Dr. Kriti Jain, a surgical fellow trained at a high volume smile train centre, GSR institute of craniofacial and facial plastic surgery, Hyderabad, was recruited to establish this centre under the able leadership of Dr Dayashankara Rao JK, Head, Dept of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Dr. M S Sidhu, Head, Dept of Orthodontics. The centre was inaugurated on 13 February 2017 under the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Faculty of Dental Sciences.
The plan was to offer complete rehabilitation to cleft patients under one roof. From February 2017 to October 2017 local surveys were carried out in collaboration with dept of public health dentistry and other NGOs around Delhi NCR to identify cleft patients as well as to educate local health authorities about the problem of cleft lip and palate. During this time many patients were mobilized to the centre and their surgical and other treatments were initiated and completed.
In October 2017, a special field team was constituted to identify, educate and mobilize cleft patients from the surrounding villages and cities. The field team worked tirelessly to visit local Anganwadis, hospitals, schools etc, and met with local residents and village heads to spread cleft awareness.
The NavMuskaan cleft centre is now synonymous with definitive and timely cleft treatment.
In February 2018, Centre applied for a partnership with the esteemed international NGO dedicated to global cleft care, SMILE TRAIN, based out of New York but has country offices world over. After two rounds of rigorous inspections by the smile train authorities (June and November 2018) to ensure that the centre was capable of providing quality cleft care to patients, the agreement was signed with Smile Train in May 2019. This partnership has ensured that NavMuskaan Centre is a self sustainable model for cleft care through the funding provided by the smile train based on patient treatment done.
About 80 patients have been operated upon till date and the numbers continue to grow with over 150 registrations.
The center not only caters to the surgical requirement of the patients but also looks into the complete spectrum of problems that a cleft child faces at absolutely no treatment cost. A free of cost cleft speech therapy programme is also in place that helps these children as they grow and start learning how to speak. At a later stage orthodontic treatment is also provided at a highly subsidized cost to ensure that all the patients can get access to this aspect of care as well.
The centre has gained a lot of popularity in the adjoining areas with treated patients referring other patients to visit the facility and get their children treated here. Recently, many cleft patients are being additionally referred to the centre through the Government’s RBSK programme (Rashtriya BalSwasthya Karyakram). This has been made possible by the Smile Train organization that has an MoU with the said programme.