Oral Health Education Program in Houston

Dr. Odoh Onuora

Those parents and guardians that their children are in Kindergarten —-Grade 7 in Silverthorne and Twain Sullivan Elementary schools would have noticed that their children returned home with some dental supplies last week. Some of these school children may have shared with their parents/guardians the intelligent, simple, practical and fun experience they had in their oral health education classes on those dates. This is part of the new Oral Health Education Program for school children in Houston.

For some obvious reasons, poor oral health is a huge concern in rural communities, particularly in children, and is known to be associated with significant medical and psycho-social problems which can impair proper growth and development of these children. This new program is aimed to provide oral health education to these high risk pediatric age group using standardized, approved and age-appropriate dental tools and resources and in their school environment.

This health promotion program is two-pronged; the education and the evaluation piece.

Oral health education will be provided in classroom settings for Kindergarten/Grades 1—7 students using a blended teaching model which involves active participation of Grade 7 students and clinicians in the teaching. Involving Grade 7 students in the teaching is not only to encourage peer support and learning but also to ensure sustainability and continuity of the project, hoping that each successive Grade 7 class will inherit and participate in the teaching roles. This is believed to be another way to nurture and develop leadership and teaching potentials of these future generation.

It will be important to evaluate the impacts of this educational program after a period of time to determine whether it achieves both its targeted goals and accepted by the community. Information from the evaluation is also important in knowledge translation and possible up-scaling of the project. This evaluation piece is 100 per cent voluntary and does not in any way affects participation in the educational component of the program, and is supported by a research grant from Rural Coordination Centre of British Columbia. This will be conducted by the participating parents/schoolchildren completing a written questionnaire that contains simple, basic and general information on their behaviour and attitude toward oral health. The evaluation does not in any way involves physical examination or looking into a participating schoolchild’s mouth.

Schoolchildren will be sent home at a point during this program with a letters for their parents/guardians to consent on whether they want them to participate in evaluation of the program or not and also for the schoolchild to assent to participate.

This important health promotion and educational program is a collaborative work of two assistant professors in the Faculty of Dentistry, University of British Columbia (UBC); Leeann Donnelley and Kavita Muthu and Dr. Odoh Onuora of Northern Health. And, is supported by the involved schools , School District 54, faculty of Dentistry, UBC and Rural Coordination Centre of British Columbia.

Admittedly, some of these school children have fairly good oral health but there is always a room to improve. More so, the program is rooted in improving attitude, behaviour and practice of oral health which is important to be imbibed in our children at this their developmental stage of life. While the result of the evaluation may not be directly beneficial to the participants, many other children out there will definitely benefit from it as it is used in planning and delivery of similar programs in various locations. And apart from Houston schools, elementary school in Granisle is also participating in the program.

Oral Health Education Program to school children in Houston is a good health and educational resource to the community and parents/school children are encouraged to participate.

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