Last Saturday nine dental healthcare students from the Berkeley University in California, USA, conducted the third dental health camp at our Ashayen Community Centre in Dharavi. Together with our community health workers and many other volunteers, they invited the mothers of our communities to bring their kids for dental check-ups, toothbrushing training, fluoride vanish, nutrition counselling and to distribute toothbrushes and toothpaste.
The response was great: 50 mothers came with 73 children. The entire group was busy from noon until 6pm. Many mothers came for the second or third time but also a lot of new families wanted to participate as they heard about the great success of the previous camps.
Before the kids went from station to station the mothers were asked to answer a few questions about the dental health of their kids, their behaviour and their knowledge. The results were very interesting:
Many local dentists give misinformation or don’t pay much attention. It is very difficult to get an appointment and the usual waiting period is one to two months. Also the dental health care is expensive. Therefore the volunteers suggested that local dentists could be involved in this project and that they should follow up more often with the participants.
Junk food is still a problem. In fact even more mothers said that their kids consume too much junk food. Even if the mothers are aware of the issue, the fathers or grandparents would give less nutritious food to the kids. Therefore we hope to conduct a workshop with this target group, separate from the camp, next time.
Too many mothers bottle-feed their kids too early. Kids don’t drink enough milk or eat products which are bad for their teeth. This is a subject the volunteers want to address more at the nutrition counselling station next time.
During the interview with their mothers the health workers kept the kids busy by telling them a child story about the consequences of eating junk food. The kids quickly understood the reason behind the advice and reasons for eating healthy food.
This time the volunteers also added a new station where the hemoglobin levels were tested with a small device. We realised that 52% of the kids had hemoglobin levels which were too low, which can result in constant tiredness, weakness and sickness this is caused by malnutrition.
All together the camp was again a great success and gave us all great insights. The community health workers and local volunteers worked closely with the volunteers from the UC Berkeley to run a smooth camp and reach out to as many kids as possible. We appreciate the support of the students a lot and look forward to the next one in the summer.