This post is a guest post from G4 Alliance Member Smile Train.
Each year, more than 170,000 children are born with a cleft lip and/or palate in developing countries. Unfortunately, many of these children will not receive the care they need due to lack of access to the resources required for safe and quality treatment. The impact of an untreated cleft on these children’s lives goes far beyond simply cosmetic. Often, these children cannot eat, breathe, hear or speak properly. They are routinely ostracized and don’t attend school, ultimately barring them from being employable as adults. Since 1999, Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft organization, has pioneered new technology to help these children.
Smile Train’s innovative technology solutions support our unique model. Smile Train leverages the
‘teach a man to fish’ approach, focusing on training local doctors around the world to perform cleft surgery in their own communities. Here are three ways Smile Train is using technology to drastically improve the lives of children around the world.
1) Speech Therapy App
Many children who are born with cleft palates require speech therapy post-surgery,
provided by skilled speech-language pathologists. However, some parents of children
with clefts may lack access to speech-language services, based on their socioeconomic
status, income level or geographic location. And even when initial speech-language
services are provided, accessing ongoing therapy can be expensive or logistically
challenging. To address this need, Smile Train – which has worked in 85+ countries
around the world – created a free, interactive smartphone application for children with
speech problems caused by cleft. This app uses stories, games, and songs to help
children with clefts improve their speech, and parents are encouraged to download this
app and use it to supplement their child’s cleft treatment. The app also lowers the
burden on families to travel for therapy, and the fun curriculum encourages children to
practice more often to yield better speech outcomes. The app is currently available in
English (“Smile Train Speech Games and Practice”) which will help not only children in
the developing world, but also children all over the world who may not otherwise have
access to speech services. It’s also available in Spanish (“Smile Train Habla y Lenguaje”).
To-date, the Spanish language version has 1,500+ active users in 15+ countries and has
been downloaded more than 11,500 times. Both versions are available on both iOS and
Android devices and can be downloaded in the Apple and Google Play stores.
2) Virtual Reality
Recently, Smile Train developed two virtual reality videos, truly bringing the work of our
local partners to life. The 3-D computer generated simulation allows viewers to fully
transport themselves to India as they follow along with two cleft children, Nisha and
Vikas, on their journeys to new smiles. The intensely immersive experience provides a
firsthand view of what life is really like for children in the developing world with
untreated clefts. While booking a plane ticket to India to see Smile Train’s local
programs in action may not be practical; taking a journey through the power of virtual
reality technology enables Smile Train to raise awareness for the millions of children
with untreated clefts still waiting for their new smiles and new lives. For more
information please visit: smiletrain.org/lp/360-smiles
3) Virtual Surgery Simulator
In 2013 Smile Train partnered with BioDigital Systems to launch the Virtual Surgery
Simulator, the first web-based, 3D, interactive surgical explorer for cleft care. Smile
Train’s Virtual Surgery Simulator provides surgeons around the world with next
generation surgical training technology for learning surgical techniques in cleft lip and
palate repair. By focusing on training local doctors to perform cleft repair surgery and
provide comprehensive cleft care in their own communities, Smile Train is able to create
a long-term, sustainable system. To learn more about the Virtual Surgery Simulator
please visit cleftsim.org.
While there is still a lot of work to be done, leveraging technology, brings us one step closer to achieving our goal for all cleft children to have access to safe, quality cleft treatment enabling these children to lead healthy and productive lives.
For more information about Smile Train and ways to get involved please visit smiletrain.org.
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