Night sky with colorful fireworks

Happy New Year! 2023 in Review

As we turn the page on 2023, we look back with much appreciation for all that our extended community is doing to accomplish our mission of improving the health and wellbeing of people with cerebral palsy (CP) and their families. Many of you have engaged in the work of improvement in care and new knowledge generation through creation of or participation in studies. We thank you all for your efforts, your willingness to share ideas and resources with your colleagues and researchers, and your unrelenting drive to make life better for people with CP.

We kicked off the year with an impactful strategic partnership with Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation (CPARF) which is the largest private funder of CP research funding in the United States and a disability technology accelerator. The CP Research Network has fundraised together with CPARF as part of their STEPtember campaign and CPARF has supported all of our existing research efforts as well directly funded three new studies – two for adults and one for children.

Our research program benefited from the guidance of our data coordinating center at the University of Pittsburgh. A big shout out goes to Dr. Stephen Wisniewski and his whole team at Pitt for their innovative perspective on study designs, advancing our data collection and reporting, and increasing the scalability of network to enable more clinicians and community members to participate in making new discoveries in cerebral palsy. We also benefited from the addition of Dr. Joyce Trost to our research team. Dr. Trost leads our registries which have grown substantially in 2023 and underpin all our work. Alongside her, our scientific director Dr. Kristie Bjornson and Quality Improvement director Dr. Amy Bailes, strengthen our research pipeline and care improvement efforts with their related expertise. Together this team has overseen the development and advancement of 31 studies and improvement efforts including 20 newly initiated THIS year!

What does all this research activity mean to you? First that the CP Research Network is serious about changing outcomes through care for people with CP of all ages. For adults, the network is very focused on pain and its impact on function. Participating centers increased the assessment of pain in adult visits from 24% to over 90% this year and have been funded by CPARF to standardize the classification of that assessed pain so that it can be treated effectively. For children, the network is improving the dystonia diagnosis and working toward network surveillance of hip dislocation which can be a painful result especially for children with CP that are less mobile. Our improvements in care are being built into the electronic medical record system to make the clinical assessment of pain, diagnosis of dystonia and surveillance of hips, part of the standard of care for patients at CP Research Network hospitals. Three new publications this year highlighted just some of the research and improvement in the network including the effort to reduce infections after baclofen pump surgeries, chronic pain in adults, and a study of practice variation in selective dorsal rhizotomy.

Our education and engagement programs have seen large increases in enrollment in MyCP – our interactive web portal for personalized information and participation in research. Our monthly MyCP webinar series has engaged hundreds of community members in live discussions and gathered more than 7,000 views on YouTube this year. Our CP Toolkit continues to be our most often downloaded educational piece helping families understand the meaning of a CP diagnosis.

Finally, our partnership with the National Center for Health, Physical Activity and Disability provided incredible health and wellness opportunities to adults with CP. While only 16 people took advantage of the fantastic MENTOR program that teaches participants about mindfulness and how to get sufficient adaptive exercise and nutrition for improving one’s health, these MENTOR participants raved about the classes and the result, so we hope to triple the number of participants in 2024!

The timeliness of MENTOR has been invaluable to me, given my life stage, CP journey, and the additional impact of my other health conditions. The program has equipped me with the necessary skills to manage these challenges, such as mindset, activity levels, and nutrition. Additionally, the one-on-one opportunities to meet with staff have helped me fine-tune my approach.
Marji – MENTOR program graduate

We have exciting plans for 2024 including much deeper involvement of the community in our research program starting with opportunities to attend our annual investigator meeting in April and participation as co-investigators on developing projects. We anticipate a lot of progress, improvement, funding and results from our myriad research projects under development. And at least two new toolkits will be launched this year!