During an event held at the British Embassy’s Garden in Bucharest, GSK Consumer Healthcare and Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft-focused organization, launched the campaign “Smiles Change Lives” that aims to help provide treatment for children with clefts and to eliminate the stigma often associated with it.
One of the first outdoor events of the season was honoured by the presence of the Ministry of Health, Ioana Mihăilă, and the Presidential Advisor, Diana-Loreta Păun, next to the British Ambassador, H.E. Andrew Noble LVO, Nigel Stephenson, General Manager GSK Consumer Healthcare Romania & Moldova, Conf. Univ. Dr. Radu Spătaru and, by online broadcast, Shannon Lambert, Vice President & Regional Director, Americas & Europe Smile Train. They all pledged for immediate action to help the children affected and confirmed joined forces to provide them a better live.
“Smiles change lives” campaign has mainly a fundraising purpose, to help support Smile Train’s cleft programs, including those at Maria Sklodowska Curie Clinical Children’s Hospital. At the same time, the campaign aims to increase the awareness and education among dentists about the treatment they can offer before and after the surgery for children with clefts.
The campaign launched in Romania supports the global partnership, by donating the amount of 1 leu for each oral hygiene product from the participating brands, purchased in June 2021 and will involve all GSK Consumer Healthcare Oral Health products commercialized in Romania. In parallel, GSK Consumer Healthcare employees in Romania can also donate to this cause and the money raised will be matched by the company. Besides the important financial contribution that will help provide operations and care for children with a cleft, the partnership goes further, to help raise awareness about cleft among both consumers and experts and provide vital support in oral health and hygiene for patients, as part of the overall care pathway. In Romania, throughout this year, a calendar of webinars dedicated to dentists will unfold, organized around topics related to treating the cleft condition of children up to 18 years old.
We asked Nigel Stephenson, General Manager GSK Consumer Healthcare Romania & Moldova, about the global need of such initiative, about the campaign in Romania, but also about the company’s commitment.
-Mr. Stephenson, what actually is cleft and why the company’s need to get involved in its treatment?
-A cleft occurs when certain body parts and structures do not fuse during fetal development. Clefts can involve the lip and/or the roof of the mouth, which is made up of both hard and soft palate.
Clefts are the leading birth defect in many countries around the world. In Romania 1 in every 600 children is born with a cleft lip and/or palate. That’s about the same or even a little more than the number globally. In many countries, even here in the EU, in Romania, many children with clefts will never receive reconstructive surgery. Or, even more often, the medical cases are left unfollowed, as they need medical supervision until adulthood.
Cleft is not a condition of the modern age – it has affected children throughout history, with physiological but more importantly psychological and social effects that can define the rest of their lives, their self-image and self-esteem. Ultimately, cleft became a stigma to live with as best as possible.
At GSK Consumer Healthcare, we’re on a mission to deliver better everyday health to humanity. With GSK Consumer Health’s heritage in specialist oral health, we know the importance of a healthy mouth. That’s why we are proud to partner with an international children’s charity, like Smile Train, that has a shared vision and commitment to transform lives, one smile at a time.
-What does the Smile Train partnership entail?
-In GSK Consumer Healthcare, our passion is to identify science-led solutions that can solve the world’s health problems, giving all people a chance to fulfil their potential.
Which is why we’re so proud to partner with Smile Train – the world’s largest cleft-focused organization that has enabled 100%-free cleft lip and palate repair surgery and essential cleft care to children in over 90 countries, including Romania.
GSK Consumer Healthcare will be providing Smile Train with valuable funding, support and expertise to help ensure that every child born with clefts can have full and productive lives. We’ll donate $1.5 million globally in funding to Smile Train each year. These funds will be raised through commercial campaigns, like the one we’ll hold this June in Romania, but also through our employees’ contribution.
The strategic partnership between GSK Consumer Healthcare and Smile Train aims to manage to provide over 13500 free, safe and high-quality cleft repair surgeries wherever they are needed in the world. Building on the generosity of GSK employees over the first 2 1/2 years of our partnership with Smile Train, we raised by 31 December 2020 the necessary funds for 540 surgeries, out of which 40 in Romania already.
But of course, local partnerships are essential to delivering this, and that’s why I’m delighted that after two years working together with Smile Train and Marie Curie hospital here in Bucharest, we’re able to launch the program also in Romania, with a shared vision to treat every child born with a cleft here in Romania.
The wonderful people and doctors at Marie Curie Hospital mean that we have a great team to spearhead the fight against cleft in Romania and the region. Not just the surgeries themselves, but also training, public education, regional knowledge exchange and much more.