In January 2012 Dr Greenwall travelled to South Africa where she met the communities within the Khayelitsha Township within Cape Town. This was the moment the new initiative blossomed inspired by the Dental Wellness Trust.
Dr Greenwall returned to Cape Town in August 2012 to co-host an Oral Health Conference held in partnership with The University of the Western Cape Faculty of Dentistry. The aim of the conference was to assess the oral health status in the area, particularly focusing on Khayelitsha. The meeting was the first of its kind and laid the foundations to emphasise and address the importance of oral health in the communities.
Notable government representatives from the Department of Health, Western Cape Dental Association, local community health workers, local dentists and oral health specialists were in attendance at the conference. In collaboration with all groups, a needs assessment was conducted.
The main aims of the conference were to:
The evidence from the conference concluded Khayelitsha was in desperate need of an oral health strategy.
Khayelitsha is one of the largest townships in Cape Town with an approximate population of 500,000 residents. Access to medical and dental treatment within the area is limited and as a consequence the oral health is poor. Majority of the individuals have little knowledge of basic oral hygiene and limited awareness of what measures need to be taken to avoid and/or reduce tooth decay. As a result of this many children suffer from severe tooth decay and toothache. Hence, educating the children about oral health and enforcing preventive measures is necessary to tackle these
There are many challenges faced by individuals of the community in regards to oral health. These include economic constraints which restrict the availability of toothbrushes and toothpaste. There is also poor dental service in the community, with a lack of affordable dentists. The community is poorly informed about oral health and no priority is given to brushing and maintaining teeth. In general people are more likely to visit a dentist when something is wrong, rather than as a preventative measure. There is also a high consumption of the ‘wrong’ foods, e.g sweets instead of fruit and vegetables. Many have an attitude baby teeth are less important, since new adult teeth will grow.
Following on from the conference, the Dental Wellness Trust formed partnership with Ikamva Labuntu, MKI and University of the Western Cape – and the Dental Wellness Western Cape Action Group was established.
In April 2013, we began to pilot an innovative oral health education programme in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. The objective is to assess how the programme makes a measurable difference to the oral health of children in the township. On completion, we plan to deliver the programme across the region.
The Pilot Study Team: Dr Dirk Smit UWC (Dental School, the University of the Western Cape), Dr Linda Greenwall (Dental Wellness Trust), Professor Neil Myburgh (University of the Western Cape), Dr Alon Livni (Hadassah, Hebrew University), Health Coordinator Lulama Sigasana (Ikamva Labuntu), and volunteers from the Occupational Therapy Department at University of Cape Town.
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