Andrew Kalli (BDS year 4) took part in a volunteer programme organised by the European Dental Students’ Association. Here Andrew tells us what he got up to this summer.
Following 5 successful years of the Amchi programme in Ladakh, India a similar initiative has been introduced in Tanzania. These volunteer programmes are both ran by the European Dental Students’ Association in collaboration with local dental groups – Manipal University (India) and the Tanzanian Dental Students’ Association (Tanzania).
The project in Tanzania is named ‘Pamoja’ meaning ‘together’ in Swahili and the programme was held for the first time in August 2015. The aims of this dental project are to educate, screen and treat Tanzanian children. In addition to the screening, epidemiological data was collected this year to survey the caries experience of the local children.
The European team for the 2015 visit was organised by Olivia Johnson King (King’s College London), Cristina Rizea (Carol Davila, Romania) and Andrew Kalli (University of Birmingham). Overall, 14 nations participated in the project to create a strong team of 33 volunteers, many of whom were newly-graduated clinicians.
Over the two 5-day school weeks, 1200 children were screened by team A. Treatment plans were written and parents were required to provide written consent for the treatment. Of the children screened 663 were provided with treatment. In the classrooms, the atraumatic restorative treatment approach (ART) was utilised with hand-mix glass ionomer to manage caries. Children deemed to be high caries risk also had permanent molars fissure sealed. A coach was used to transfer children requiring extractions and complicated treatment to a nearby clinic where 3 chairs were kindly vacated for the volunteers to provide free treatment in a clinical setting. Team A gave 1800 children oral hygiene education including handwashing technique in the local Swahili language and distributed free toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Team B focused on epidemiology and a full report is in preparation. A total of 789 children were sampled for the research aged 5-15. As well as a clinical examination, children also completed a questionnaire about their dietary habits, utilisation of dental services and home oral hygiene practices. Approximately half of the children (47.5%) had never visited a dentist before. The questionnaire responses highlighted that some children did not own a toothbrush and others practiced brushing with salt or ashes rather than toothpaste. Team B also distributed toothbrushes and toothpaste and gave small group oral hygiene classes to an additional 1000 children.
Following a very successful first year of the project, the EDSA intends to make the Pamoja programme a 5 year initiative in Tanzania. The EDSA will be opening a written application process to BDS5 in October for the project running in early August 2016. There will be various fundraising events at Birmingham throughout the year so keep a look out!