CDC’s Work on Cerebral Palsy

Photo: Boy in wheelchair with girl

We at CDC are committed to finding out how many people have cerebral palsy (CP), understanding the risk factors for CP, and helping parents and families recognize the early signs of CP.

Promoting Early Identification of Cerebral Palsy

We naturally think of a child’s growth as height and weight, but from birth through 5 years, a child should reach milestones in how he or she plays, learns, speaks, acts, and moves. A delay in any of these areas could be a sign of CP or other developmental disability.

Through the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” program, CDC and its partners aim to improve early identification of children with ASD and other developmental disabilities by promoting developmental monitoring, so children and families can get the services and support they need.

Determining How Many People Have Cerebral Palsy

By tracking the number of children with CP over time, we can find out whether their number is rising, dropping, or staying the same. We also can compare the number of children with CP in different parts of the country and look at the different traits or features of children with CP. This information can help us look for risk factors and possible causes for CP.

Understanding Risk Factors

We at CDC also support public health research, including studies into possible causes of developmental disabilities. Research is the next step after tracking. For instance, tracking can help identify those who are at a higher risk of developing CP. Researchers can do studies to find out potential risk factors for or ways to prevent CP. Both public health tracking and research efforts provide information needed to direct public health prevention efforts. What is learned from public health research affects public health action.

Increasing Awareness

At CDC, we work to increase knowledge of some of the causes of CP that can be prevented. For example, babies with severe jaundice can be treated with special lights (phototherapy) to stop the development of kernicterus, a known cause of CP. Similarly, routine vaccination of babies prevents many cases of meningitis, another known cause of brain damage that can, in turn, cause CP. Making sure that children are properly buckled in car seats or booster seats when riding in cars can help prevent head injury during an accident; head injury is another cause of CP.

Community Outreach

We at CDC have been working with our partners to increase awareness of CP and its effect on families. CDC held the first annual Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day in March 2006. In the years since then, CDC and the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network have continued to work with community partners to hold programs in metropolitan Atlanta and in ADDM Network communities across the United States to bring greater attention and awareness to CP.

For More Information

To learn more about CDC’s work, click on the following links:

Tracking Methods for Cerebral Palsy
Learn the Signs. Act Early. Campaign