MANILA, PHILIPPINES — As the global pandemic approaches its third year, there is no denying that COVID-19 has been everyone’s paramount health concern. However, as many continue to live with the pandemic, Smile Train recognizes that children born with a cleft lip and/or palate still face serious health implications from this condition.
The challenges posed by the pandemic have pushed Smile Train to become even more focused and persistent in its work. It was able to provide 2,500 cleft surgeries in 2021 — 750 more than in the previous year. By leveraging technology to ensure access to much-needed services, Smile Train also enabled more medical professionals to offer telehealth consultations and speech therapy sessions.
“Throughout last year, we wanted our beneficiaries to know that Smile Train services are ongoing and have never stopped. We want our patients to know that hope is not lost. While we stay at home for everyone’s safety, Smile Train worked hard to innovate and create programs to reach more Filipinos in need,” said Kimmy Coseteng-Flaviano, Smile Train Vice President, South East Asia.
For many Filipinos, the pandemic caused a temporary disruption to their lives due to mobility restrictions. However, through the first Filipino Speech Therapy App by developed by Smile Train and its Speech Telehealth Program, patients can continue to receive their treatment and guidance from healthcare professionals in the comfort and safety of their homes.
The Speech Therapy App is a free mobile application, designed to help patients who have received surgery for their cleft palate. Since its launch in 2021, the application has reached an audience of 50,053 Filipinos for continued treatment and services. The app also features a wide array of educational videos and speech therapy sessions in Filipino, with features and content for young patients. The application is available for download on the App Store and Google Play.
On the other hand, Smile Train’s Telehealth program connects patients and guardians to healthcare practitioners for consultations, health education, and assessments via WhatsApp, Skype, and Zoom, on any device. This program has provided patients with more than 2,000 cleft care-related sessions, covering speech therapy, nutritional support, breastfeeding guidance for mothers of babies with clefts, pre-surgical consultations, and psychosocial care.
Aside from continued treatment for current patients, Smile Train endeavors to reach more cleft-affected individuals and their families in need. In the first quarter of 2021, the charity launched Cleft Con Philippines, the first-of-its-kind conference, streamed through Smile Train Philippines’ official Facebook page. Cleft Con was a series of discussions from experts who discussed various aspects of cleft care, such as breastfeeding babies with a cleft, oral hygiene tips, surgery, the importance of speech therapy and building one’s self-confidence.
With the successful launch of Cleft Con Philippines, the charity, in partnership with RMN Foundation and Radio Mindanao Network, launched Cleft Con Radio, a series of discussions covering comprehensive cleft care that aired in Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao, and Cagayan de Oro.
Another milestone for Smile Train is the launch of its first Comprehensive Cleft Center in Cebu. Located at ARC Hospital in Lapu-Lapu City, the center aims to make cleft care services more accessible to individuals and families in the region.
While the charity organization expanded its reach and services, Smile Train Philippines also continues to support medical professionals involved in providing cleft care by offering them education and training opportunities for developing their skills further and exchanging best practices with other experts around the world. By supporting cleft professionals, cleft-affected individuals and their families can ultimately receive safe, high-quality, and timely care throughout the year.
“We’re coming into 2022 with the determination to help more people in need. Despite the challenges of the current times, Smile Train continues to innovate and improve access to comprehensive cleft care for the tens and thousands of Filipinos depending on us,” said Flaviano.
Smile Train has proven its steadfast commitment to a vision of a world where Filipinos have access to free comprehensive cleft care and can live a healthy life. As the pandemic continues to worry Filipinos, receiving comprehensive cleft care can be one less worry with Smile Train Philippines.