By Dr Aiman Shahab
Inadequate access to oral healthcare is a persistent rural health issue. Several factors have been well documented which contribute to the problems of accessing dental care in rural Pakistan. Nonetheless, due to the lack of dental health care professional in rural areas, people have to travel to farther regions to obtain oral healthcare. Adequate transportation systems are often non-existent, making it difficult for rural residents to travel to a dentist, particularly low-income residents. The rate of poverty is much higher in the non-metro areas, and most often, rural populations cannot afford dental healthcare.
Rural Pakistan has a higher percentage of a young population, which is less likely to have dental coverage as they belong to financially insecure family backgrounds. Therefore, to bridge the gap between dental healthcare in the rural areas of Pakistan, Dr Muhammad Abdullah Jatoi and Dr Saiyid Ali Haider Raza took an initiative to reach the many underserved children in the community under the umbrella of Dow University of Health Sciences. The screening was hosted at three schools in Thatta, Sindh. The execution and proceedings of the outreach were overseen by Dr Asher Afaq.
The motto behind the dental screening program was to travel to the community and offer free screening and to teach underprivileged children about dental health. Good dental care is vital to the overall well-being and confidence of children, and they are the key elements for them to come to school happy, healthy and ready to learn. About 15 dentists from Dow University of Health Sciences volunteered for this collaborated health initiative, to visit the schools in Thatta.
The dental faculty screened children for signs of dental decay and cavities and notified the parents and legal guardians of the findings. The children were educated on how to brush and floss properly and the importance of visiting a dentist regularly and how to make healthy snack and drink choices. Children left the school with a goody bag with dental health educational material, a toothbrush and toothpaste.
Giving back to the community through volunteering and providing community service can be one of the most fulfilling aspects of your career. Even speaking to school children about the importance of brushing can make a difference. When inquired as to how the two organizers of the outreach further plan to bridge this gap, the young doctors told us that they are planning to open up an NGO that would work for the rural areas of Sindh and are looking for donors from across the dental community and beyond.