Building on his February 2020 NIH grant, Azeez Butali, professor in the Department of Oral Pathology, Radiology, and Medicine and the world's leading expert in orofacial clefts among African populations, was awarded a $133,526 supplemental award to identify the mental health challenges among African mothers and their children affected by orofacial clefts.
Because of the far-reaching familial and social implications of orofacial clefts on family life, especially in less economically developed areas, there is often significant stigmatization and lack of sociocultural support for affected families. Some studies have found that because such conditions are believed to be a result of “blood,” that is—passed down in families—the stigma will extend toward the entire family unit.
A prior supplemental award investigated the role of community gatekeepers—such as community elders or religious leaders—in mitigating the stigma associated with orofacial clefts. Furthermore, as part of the larger NIH grant, the research team has identified incidental genetic findings, including, for example, increase risks for sickle cell anemia among other genetic conditions. This supplemental award is focused on assessing the mental health of mothers and their children with orofacial clefting given knowledge about these genetic incidental findings, the pressures associated with orofacial clefts more generally, and related sociocultural stigma. The team will also investigate the degree of behavioral difficulties found in children with orofacial clefts, and they will assess its impact on the quality of life and mental health of the mother.
The overall aim of the supplemental project is to identify concrete strategies to support mothers and families in the face of these mental health and behavioral challenges.
Butali’s research team also includes Yewande Oshodi, a psychiatrist at the University of Lagos, and Wasiu Adeyemo, professor at the University of Lagos.