Although Dr. Hurvitz has remained active as a researcher throughout a career spanning more than three decades, he has also served as a sort of advocate, working to get a younger generation of doctors and researchers interested in CP. He mentioned that the CP Research Network has been helpful in this regard: “[Working with the CP Research Network] has given me the chance to interact with young faculty and try to bring them in more to the world of CP research, along with giving them the tools to do it,” Dr. Hurvitz explained.
The rationale here is that if there is growth in the amount of researchers dedicated to CP, funding devoted to CP will likewise increase. Ideally, Dr. Hurvitz explained, all major medical centers that train early-career researchers would have CP-related programs. If the National Institutes of Health and other grantmaking agencies were, in Dr. Hurvitz’s words, “flooded with high quality grants related to CP,” research would increase exponentially. Specific areas that Dr. Hurvitz would like to see an increased focus on include research that engages with the International Classification of Functioning (ICF), which would entail finding interventions to improve overall health for people with CP and developing ways to increase their participation in vocational and recreational activities.
Likewise, because so many people with CP depend on their primary care physicians to correctly diagnose secondary health issues and make the appropriate referrals, Hurvitz also sees increased focus on education about CP as a vital step. “I would do more to teach primary care physicians about what we are learning about preventive care for people with cerebral palsy,” said Dr. Hurvitz. As telemedicine continues to grow, Dr. Hurvitz is optimistic about its potential to connect people with CP to specialists all over the country: “Telemedicine has great potential to allow health care providers knowledgeable about adults with CP to provide care and partner with providers in the individual’s local area. CPRN is working on a project to better identify these needs and provide education to people with CP about the importance of finding a knowledgeable provider,” In this same vein, he also considers it important to provide individuals with CP and their families with the tools to navigate health care and social service systems that are often ill-equipped to handle their needs.
Sorely needed investment in public infrastructure—increases in the frequency and reliability of public transportation, self-driving vehicles, and personal robotics aid devices, for example—also stands to benefit adults with CP. Additionally, investments in technology—voice-activated software, communication devices, and learning platforms tailored to children with learning disabilities—will also likely improve the day-to-day lives of people with CP.
Dr. Hurvitz continues to cover a wide range of CP-related health issues in his clinical research. He’s currently leading a project that would introduce handgrip strength as a measure of risk for chronic disease, and the Michigan team is also actively looking into better ways to assess the risk of fractures and renal disease (and screen for them, as well). Research aside, Dr. Hurvitz remains an active and passionate clinician. “One of the things I find in talking to adults with CP is that they just greatly appreciate the information, and they really feel like so few people are able to provide it.” Public knowledge is still catching up to the recent uptick in research, and so Dr. Hurvitz sees information dissemination and the growth of the CP health care provider/researcher community as a crucial factor in getting people with CP the treatment they need.
There is, of course, no magic treatment for CP, but Dr. Hurvitz’s outlook remains optimistic because of how the CP community and CP infrastructure have grown in recent years. “CPRN provides the tools to improve care, increase clinical research at significantly reduced cost (once the infrastructure is in place), improve clinical education…and more,” Dr. Hurvitz said.
Much of the research that Dr. Hurvitz and his peers have produced in recent years does suggest that CP is treatable, that physical interventions can dramatically increase quality of life and decrease the severity and frequency of secondary health issues. This is another reason for Dr. Hurvitz’s optimism. Recounting a patient whose life improved after being treated for a secondary health issue that was plaguing her, Dr. Hurvitz said, “I like to say that I can cure cerebral palsy—a little bit at a time. I can’t cure all of it, but I can cure some of it.” He feels that the more we know about CP, the more we can cure. The CP Research Network will continue to play a vital role in continued efforts to better understand CP.