RCF set-up a project called ‘Healthy Smiles’ which provides oral hygiene education and dietary advice, with the objective of reducing the burden of oral disease through prevention. The information is delivered to children via interactive workshops in refugee camps.
The World Dental Federation highlights the increased global burden of oral disease, with dental decay affecting 24 million people worldwide and oral cancer ranked as the eighth most common cancer. Unfortunately dental treatment alone will not reduce inequalities in oral health and therefore there needs to be a shift towards focusing on prevention to achieve sustainable oral health improvements.
Healthy Smiles is designed to be an interactive oral health promotion workshop. In February 2017, Refugee Crisis Foundation delivered their first workshop to over 400 children in the Skaramagas camp, Greece. With the help of Farsi, Arabic and Kurdish interpreters, a large mouth model and toothbrush was used to demonstrate the correct brushing technique. Children were asked to come up and show the class what they had learnt on the model. Having taught them how many times to brush and for how many minutes, we moved onto focusing on the types of food they consume. Using their dietary feedback, advice was delivered focusing primarily on reducing sugar consumption, which has been identified as the main risk factor for dental decay.
Furthermore the use of tobacco has been identified as a risk factor for oral cancer therefore tobacco cessation advice, particularly smokeless tobacco, is also incorporated into the programme to raise awareness of its harmful effects. This element of the workshop is aimed towards teenagers and parents accompanying children at the workshop.
Interestingly, children often transform the workshop into a seminar, whereby they ask thought-provoking questions. During each session we aim to encourage each member of the class to participate, through answering each other’s questions and having an open discussion. At the end of the workshop, every participant receives an oral hygiene pack consisting of a toothpaste, toothbrush, activity book, crayons, and a leaflet reinforcing the oral hygiene instructions, tobacco cessation and dietary advice.
As a result of the success of the initial Healthy Smiles workshop, further sessions have been delivered at Camp Sounio in Greece. The Refugee Crisis Foundation aims to deliver further workshops to raise the awareness of oral hygiene and good dietary advice.