‘Teeth Tales’ Program Conclusion

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‘Teeth Tales’ Program Conclusion

‘Teeth Tales’ Program

The last financial year saw the ‘Teeth Tales’ program initiated which included VASS and a number of other health and welfare organisation. It was inspired by an academic study at the University of Melbourne which identified migrant and ethnic communities and their lack of understanding and access to oral health. The main communities identified were Iraqi, Lebanese and Pakistani communities, however the program as welcome to many other communities. The program was focussed on young children and toddlers as well as babies developing teeth problems.

The program was run with a project team staff from the McCaughey Centre and Merri Community Health Services (MCHS) along with VASS, Arabic Welfare and the Pakistan Australia Association Melbourne Inc. as cultural partners. Study partners included members from Moreland City Council, North Richmond Community Health Centre, the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health (CEH) and Yarra City Council. Furthermore, a number of members from the University of Melbourne, who lead the research and project management, as well as scientific investigation, were joined with other science academics from Deakin, LaTrobe and Cardiff Universities as well as the University College in London and Dental Health Services Victoria.

The first element of the program was a test screening, in which VASS and other organisations sought voluntary participation from a number of community groups for an oral health assessment. There was a healthy response from many participants, and VASS had identified an overarching language accessibility barrier in participants from Assyrian and Arabic speaking communities from diverse countries such as Turkey, Iraq, New Zealand, Canada, the Middle East and of locally from Australia. The second stage of testing was done with a comparison group which further progressed into an oral health education program including an emphasis on existing health projects such as Smiles4Miles, Eat Well, Drink Well, Clean Well, Play Well and Stay Well, which educated participants about how daily activities such as eating can have an impact on oral health and dental hygiene. Furthermore, a child oral health education session was run which provided an opportunity for both parents and grandparents of children aged 0-5 years to recognise the importance of oral health in relation to general health, increase parental knowledge about such health issues and link parents to local cultural networks and develop parent support networks.

VASS has seen a remarkable amount of success in increasing access to health and identifying gaps in existing health services. Offering a social based understanding of oral health, many people from non- English speaking backgrounds have been able to be educated about oral health, especially for children in early years of development. The mutual findings between the education and scientific institutions and ethnic-based social services has benefited all participants and organisations greatly, and VASS is proud to have been part of a broad community engaging program, which it believes has set the framework for future understandings of access to health and barriers in understanding the importance of oral health and accessibility to its services.

On conclusion of the program, toothpaste, both adult and child toothbrushes and information kits in Arabic were distributed to attendees – to foster increased oral health care.

Thank you to all who attended and supported the successful program.