By Palms participant Michele Rankin. Feature Image: Triage at the Senior High school
There is now an increased prevalence of dental caries and periodontal disease among children in Balibó due to the increase in consumption of sugar and processed foods. Since 2017, the Balibó Dental Clinic has worked collaboratively with health workers and key community members, to deliver an oral health care service to people in the community. The implementation of early preventative interventions are integral to reduce the burden of oral diseases and conditions.
Kose Nehan team – Felix, Anjelica, Sidonia and Michele
For the past few years, I have been assisting local dental assistants Sidonia and Felix to develop management and coordination functions which assist with the implementation, progress and monitoring of the Balibó Dental Clinic preventative and educational programs. We work closely with the Balibó House Trust, Dental Services Victoria and our visiting international dentists to create a sustainable and cost effective primary oral prevention service.
The central setting of our Kose Nehan (oral health and prevention program) is kindergartens and schools as good oral health habits, attitudes, and behaviours are best established during childhood. My role is to support and facilitate the capability of the team. There is an emphasis on leadership, monitoring and evaluation techniques to establish a good business model. The program requires cumulative statistical information and continuous modifications to function effectively. Mentoring the local dental team to develop skills in supporting and managing transitions so that they are more contextually aware of the intent of the program is challenging. Boosting confidence and skills cannot be achieved through short term mentoring.
There are challenges but then there are many rewards. Seeing the growth and development of the dental team, participating in the outreach program, the adventures of driving out to remote locations, creating networks, meeting new people, making the children laugh during the good food /bad food demonstration are the highlights. Being able to contribute towards a program that holistically addresses the oral health issues of children and other vulnerable groups makes it all worthwhile.