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The importance of teaching oral hygiene to school children

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A cross-section of key stakeholders in Kenya’s health and education sectors have pledged their support for the curriculum review process that will include oral health content. Their support for the curriculum review was pledged at a multi-stakeholder forum organized and sponsored by Wrigley, at a Nairobi hotel.

The forum drew the attendance of high-level representatives from the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, the University of Nairobi, the Kenya Dental Association, and Ministry of Health, who were all in consensus on the importance of integrating oral health into the school curriculum.

Speaking at the forum, Olive Mbuthia, Senior Assistant Director at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development cited that thematic areas in health education would be included in the reformed curriculum, including oral health. This follows recommendations in the first ever Kenya National Oral Health Survey Report after the findings highlighted the correlation between the poor status of oral health in children (and adults) and unhealthy dental practices due to lack of information and access to treatment.

Key findings showed that three out of four children, between the ages of five and fifteen in Kenya, suffer from gum bleeding due to poor oral hygiene practices. Similarly, prevalence of gum bleeding among adults was equally high at 98.1 percent. The survey was conducted to ascertain the burden of select oral diseases as well as implications of oral health related quality of life.

“We have been working separately with the Kenya Dental Association, the Ministry of Health and the University of Nairobi and saw it fit to bring these stakeholders together to drive the agenda of oral health in the school curriculum as Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development are undertaking the reforms,” said Wanja Mwangi, Head of Corporate Affairs at Wrigley East Africa.

Citing the 2016 World Health Organization report on “Promoting Oral Health in Africa”, Ms. Mwangi emphasised on the critical intervention needed in addressing the lack of policy which acts as an obstacle to the successful implementation of oral health programmes in schools.

The Ministry of Health was optimistic that the Wrigley-led multi-stakeholder forum would help shape policy formulation in oral health.

“We propose incorporating oral health in the existing Health Clubs in schools to get children familiar with healthy oral health practices early, as well as the practice of dental care as a career choice to pursue in future,” said Dr. Regina Mutave, a public health specialist from the University of Nairobi.

Dr. Wetende Andrew, the Chairman of the Kenya Dental Association noted that: “objectives of teaching oral health should clearly be highlighted in the syllabus.”

The World Health Organization recommends integration of oral health and oral diseases under non-communicable diseases. The forum was undertaken as part of the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Program, which has been running globally as part of the gum maker’s social investment pillar for 30 years.

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