The Dentist Magazine.

Outreach project in Kenya

Published: 20/02/2017

Henry Schein Dental UK demonstrated its commitment to oral health for the people of Kenya’s Tharaka region with a donation of healthcare products in support of the Tharaka Smile Outreach Project.

The project began in September 2016, at PCEA Chogoria Hospital to support its dental unit’s effort to provide immediate care for those in pain and need.

The Tharaka Smile Outreach Project provides preventive dental education and services to neighboring schools and orphanages. The facility offers opportunities for mission-minded professionals and dental students from abroad to volunteer their time and talents as educators or service providers. The vision of the clinic is to provide comprehensive and preventive dental services in a pleasant environment while adhering to the highest sterilisation guidelines. This project aims to improve access to oral healthcare, to include immediate care, to relieve pain and infection and to provide preventive dental education to schools, remote villages and dental services. The Kenya Oral Health Initiative (KOHI) supports and facilitates volunteerism for both the PCEA Chogoria and Kikuyu Clinics. 

Need for such a project was made clear in the ‘Kenya National Oral Health Survey Report 2015’, which showed widespread poor oral hygiene practices in the population and that children and adults had unmet dental caries and gum related treatment needs. It recommended preventive healthcare programs at strategic entry points of healthcare delivery systems. According to the country’s Center of Disease Control, about 60 per cent of children are suffering one or more cavities by the age of five.

“We are delighted that through our partnership with the International College of Dentists we were able to support the Tharaka Smile Project and contribute to the success of this worthwhile dental mission,” said Simon Gambold, vice president of the European dental northern region and marketing European dental group at Henry Schein.

Henry Schein’s donation is part of its partnership with the International College of Dentists (ICD) Global Visionary Fund (GVF) and an initiative of Henry Schein Cares, the company’s global corporate social responsibility programme. Health care activities supported by Henry Schein Cares focus on three main areas: advancing wellness, building capacity in the delivery of health care services and assisting in emergency preparedness and relief.

“The goal of the Tharaka Smile Project is to increase the oral health awareness of the underserved population with a health education programme. We know about the opportunities associated with prevention of oral diseases. With the implementation of this campaign, we can contribute to the improvement of the oral health habits of the target populations, thus ultimately reducing the burden of oral disease, especially for Tharaka children,” said Hawa Nyaboga-Okiya, dentist at PCEA Chogoria Hospital and leader of the Tharaka Smile Outreach Project.  

Hawa Nyaboga-Okiya is supported by the Kenya Oral Health Initiative (KOHI) and, amongst others, by (KOHI) volunteer dentist, Bill Hunter. Bill is a retired pediatric dentist from the United States who already supported an oral healthcare mission in the Tharaka region in 2012.

According to Hawa Nyaboga-Okiya, “As this project is created as a long term activity, it will improve access to oral health care in the future and reduce dental decay in children by training the children and their parents, as well as their teachers and other caregivers, in the importance of good oral health care and how to practice it. Once these are embraced in the family, it will reduce the dental burden greatly and encourage preventive measures among those who cannot afford the cost of dental treatment.”

The program aims to work with locally available dentists, community oral health officers, volunteers and dental assistants to train target populations, give out instructions materials and provide toothbrushes and toothpaste for the families receiving the instructions.