Cerebral palsy affects thousands of children worldwide. This includes a set of neurological disorders that occur due to brain injuries before, during and after birth. These disorders manifest early in life and often do not progressively worsen. Most children with cerebral palsy are healthy and can expect a normal life span.
Events, infections and injuries to the brain before birth are the most common cause of cerebral palsy (affecting 75% of all cases) according to the RCH (2005) Third Report of the Victorian Cerebral Palsy Register. Children with cerebral palsy also suffer from associated problems such as epilepsy, intellectual, visual or auditory impairment.
Cerebral palsy in Australia
Cerebral palsy is the most common form of childhood physical disability, affecting about 34,000 Australians. Most people with CP are healthy and can expect a normal lifespan. They are capable for studies, employment, relationships and hobbies.
In Australia, around 600 to 700 infants are born with cerebral palsy each year. It is estimated that in Australia a child is born every 18 hours that has or will develop cerebral palsy (that is one in every 400 babies).
Costs of Cerebral palsy
It is one of the top five most costly conditions on a per capita basis of 15 conditions studied by Access Economics in recent years (2008). The current annual financial cost of cerebral palsy is about $43,000 per person. Including the value of lost well-being, the cost is over $115,000 per person per annum.
Costs to individual and the government include:
- Cost to the individual estimated at 36.7% of the total – or $306 per week (2007).
- If the burden of disease (lost well-being) is included, individuals bear 76% of the costs.
- Cost to their families and friends a further 6%.
- Employers bear 5% of costs
- Rest of society bears the remaining 19% of costs
- Federal government bears around one third (33%) of the financial costs. This is most importantly from taxation revenues forgone and welfare payments.
- State governments bear under 1% of the costs
In 2007, the financial cost of cerebral palsy (CP) in Australia was $1.47 billion or 0.14% of GDP. Of this:
- 1.03 billion (69.9%) was productivity lost due to lack or lower employment, absenteeism and premature death of Australians with cerebral palsy
- 141 million (9.6%) was the costs due to welfare payments and taxation forgone
- 131 million (9.0%) was due to other indirect costs such as direct program services, aides and home modifications and the bringing-forward of funeral costs
- 129 million (8.8%) was the costs due to informal care for people with CP
- 40 million (2.8%) was direct health system expenditure
When the value of lost well-being (disability and premature death) was added, the cost increased a further $2.4 billion.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)