In the UK, two thousand children are born with cerebral palsy each year. In the US it’s about 10,000 and globally the number is well over a quarter of a million.
Cerebral palsy is the most severe neuro-developmental disorder, often requiring nursing care 24 hours a day for life. The cost to family and society is exceptionally high because the disorder is lifelong. At the same time, cerebral palsy is the tip of an iceberg of several developmental disorders of the brain. Together, these make up the bulk of mental ill health, which is overtaking all other burdens of ill health in scale and cost.
The prevalence of cerebral palsy is especially high in low-birthweight and preterm infants, which provides us with an important clue as to the causal significance of nutrition. The proportion of low-birthweight babies born – and consequently the incidence of cerebral palsy – is greater in low income populations.