OPTIMIZING HEALTH OUTCOMES
In the 1960s, children with Cystic Fibrosis had a life expectancy of less than 10 years. Today, thanks to ongoing research, these same children can live well into their 40s. That’s partly because improved diagnostic testing for CF has made it possible to diagnose the disease earlier and treatment for its symptoms can begin right away before irreversible damage occurs to the child’s lungs and digestive organs.
Even as recently as a decade ago, parents endured months, sometimes years, of anguish trying to understand their child’s health condition before CF was finally identified as the culprit. At that time, many children in Canada were close to their first birthdays before they were diagnosed with CF.
In 2005, thanks to generous community support, our researchers were able to pilot a CF screening program for newborns. Dr. Mark Montgomery, a pediatric respirologist, and his team of experts showed that a diagnostic test given immediately after birth could identify children with the genetic variance that would result in CF. The results of the research convinced policy makers to implement the CF Newborn Screening Program across Alberta, and since then every province west of Ontario as well as Nova Scotia has done the same. Those provinces have turned to Dr. Montgomery and his team for their expertise in CF screening and respect their leadership in improving health outcomes for children and families dealing with CF.
In Alberta today, families whose children have CF find out early, in a matter of weeks rather than years. And while we still look for a cure, our researchers hope that newborn screening will help extend the lifespan of children born with CF. Thanks to you, CF research like this makes the difference between a healthy child who happens to have CF and an unhealthy child due to CF.