Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day in the USA: A British Columbia Perspective
Cerebral palsy (CP) is often caused by injury to the developing brain before, during, or soon after birth. It is not a disease. It can neither be ‘caught’ nor ‘cured’. It affects no two people the same way.
Perhaps its ‘uniqueness’ is why it is so commonly misunderstood. Damage to the developing brain affects muscle control, strength and movement. This leads to a wide spectrum of disabilities.
March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month in the United States, whereas Canada celebrates in May. Nevertheless, American CP Awareness Day (March 25) offers an additional opportunity to shed light on cerebral palsy in our province.
The estimated prevalence of CP in British Columbia is 2.68 per 1000 live births, or approximately 1 in 400. Statistics Canada estimates there were 44,113 live births in British Columbia between 2012 and 2013. Using this figure, we can estimate that 118 children in this province were born with CP, or developed the disorder early in infancy, last year alone.
In 2010, Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children at B.C. Children’s Hospital published a report that applied overall population statistics from 2008 to estimate the number of children with cerebral palsy in British Columbia. The report acknowledged the limitations of extrapolating estimates from population statistics, a limitation of this blog post as well.
The reason for this limitation is that comprehensive, province-by-province figures on Canadians living with cerebral palsy are not yet available.
Despite data restrictions, the Sunny Hill report provided a detailed picture of the estimated number of children affected by cerebral palsy in B.C. Our estimates are based on the format of their original report with modifications, including updated statistics from 2013.
According to Statistics Canada, 953,357 children (19 years of age and younger) live in British Columbia. Using the prevalence rate of 2.68/1000, we can estimate that 2,555 of these children have cerebral palsy. Previous studies have determined that there are no statistically significant differences between health regions.
The following table breaks down the estimated number of children with CP by age group and health region. Calculations were rounded to the nearest one, hence the discrepancy between the figures for overall population (<20) and age group (2,555 versus 2,556).
Estimated Number of Children with CP in B.C. by Age and Health Region
It is important to remember that cerebral palsy is a general term encompassing a wide range of disability with varying degrees of severity. Population estimates have been applied to the estimated distribution of the Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS), a 5-level classification system describing the overall motor function of children with CP.
Over 40,000 Canadians have cerebral palsy, with 1 in 10 living in a long-term residential care facility. This is a significant population and one which requires further investigation.
Recently, the research team at B.C. Children’s Hospital developed the Canadian Cerebral Palsy Registry, the first national cerebral palsy registry in North America, along with researchers from across Canada. It is a confidential, nation-wide collection of information about Canadians with cerebral palsy, which will feature a specific BC division.
The lawyers at Campbell, Renaud have learned a great deal from United Cerebral Palsy, one of the largest non-profit health organizations in the United States. We wish our American friends a happy CP Awareness Day.
Smith L, Kelly KD, Prkachin G, Voaklander DC. The prevalence of cerebral palsy in British Columbia, 1991-1995. Can J Neurol Sci. 2008: 35:342-347. Updated statistics from the Canadian Cerebral Palsy Registry to be released by NeuroDevNet: http://neurodevnet.ca/cp-registry.
2 Statistics Canada. Births, estimates, by province and territory. 2013-09-26. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/demo04a-eng.htm – 2012/2013 birth numbers not yet final.
3 Mayson T. Evidence for planning: cerebral palsy in British Columbia. Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children. 2010.
4 Smith L, et al. The prevalence of cerebral palsy in British Columbia. 2008.
5 Mayson T. Evidence for planning: cerebral palsy in British Columbia. 2010.
6 Statistics Canada. Neurological conditions, by age group and sex, household population aged 0 and over, 2010/2011. 2012-09-17.
7 Statistics Canada. Neurological conditions in institutions, by age, sex, and number of residents, Canada, provinces and territories, 2011/2012. 2013-02-12.
(Posted March 24, 2015)