New Zealand’s First Study into Incidence of Orofacial Cleft

The first nationwide study looking into the incidence of Orofacial Cleft (OFC) has been published in New Zealand Medical Journal.

The study has found that New Zealand has a higher incidence of OFC (in live births) compared to other Western societies around the world.

Comparing ethnic groups in New Zealand, the study found that Maori had the highest rate of OFCs per live births—particularly Cleft Palate (CP) alone, one of the highest rates in the world.

After cross checking 10 years of clinical data from five surgical cleft treatment centres in New Zealand. There is a national incidence of OFC in 1 in 559 in live births with Maori having 1 in 422 0FC compared to 1 in 700 live births in Western society.

There is a global trend of male predominance for Cleft Lip+/-Palate, but Maori and Pacific do not follow this trend with an even male to female split. To date, there is no other ethnic population in the world where this male predominance does not exist for CL+/-P.

One possible reason for the high incidence of CP in Maori may be due to a genetic factor or in combination with environmental factors.

This study has framed an initial understanding of OFC amongst the NZ population, and is the stepping stone to further explore OFC in New Zealand.


Research article: Thompson, J.M.D., Stone, P., Sanders, M., Van der zee, H. and Fowler, P. (2016) ‘The incidence of Orofacial Cleft in live births in New Zealand’, Vol 129 (No 1440), ISSN 1175-8716.

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