It’s that time of the year again! UBC’s Faculty of Dentistry Dental Hygiene Degree Program fourth year student teams recently presented their advocacy proposals. Led by Diana Lin, a Clinical Associate Professor with the UBC Faculty of Dentistry and class Instructor, the students were challenged to think about a cause advocacy issue and how, as health care professionals, dental hygienists could advocate for their clients, and influence broader systems change through concrete and identifiable action.
Without further ado, let’s take some time to learn more about the seven presentations given this year.
- Anna Zhan, Amanda Joe and Quyen Ngo focused on the lack of oral health care services and resources for newcomers to Canada at Mosaic, which is a registered charity in Vancouver that services immigrant, newcomer and refugee communities. As Anna, Amanda and Quyen pointed out, while the Mosaic website is rich with resources on a variety of topics, there is nothing that focuses on oral health care. When immigrants arrive to Canada they typically have good health status, but over time their health declines as they begin to underuse health care services. In terms of oral health, they are more likely to report dental problems and have higher rates of oral health disease. Moreover, many come from countries where the link between oral health and overall health is not made clear. Financial barriers can also lead to a lack of dental coverage. In order to mitigate this, this team recommended to develop oral health resources for the Mosaic website.
- Ena Que, Samantha Trieu and Teresa Xiong, asked the critical question ‘Who are Dental Hygienists’ with the goal of raising the profile of dental hygiene to prospective UBC dental clinic clients. As we all know, Canada is a multicultural country, welcoming new immigrants from all over the world. Of the world’s 195countries, only 28 recognize dental hygiene as a profession which means there is a huge opportunity to help people from countries where dental hygiene is not recognized to better understand the role hygienists play in overall health. This team advocated for utilizing a video. A video would be easy to understand regardless of language, and provide people with fulsome information about the role dental hygienists play not only as clinicians but as researchers, educators, advocates, and administrators. The video would be placed on the UBC Dentistry website in the Dental Hygiene section with the intent that it would help prospective UBC dental clients differentiate between a dental hygienist and a dentist and guide the client to the appropriate professional for their oral health needs.
- Iris Feng, Iris Lin and Tiffeny Geovena looked at the poor dental health and oral needs of children and youth in the foster care system. Children and youth in foster care are vulnerable, have often suffered trauma, may be in poor health and can have greater emotional and medical needs than children and youth ‘outside of the system’. This team saw the need to increase caregiver awareness about the importance of oral health to the children’s caregivers involved with the SOS Children’s Village located in Surrey, B.C. Although basic dental coverage exists, caregivers may not be well-versed on the importance of oral health. Because the caregivers provide the emotional and physical support, ensuring they are aware of the importance of oral health is paramount. With the use of an educational session on oral health. Iris, Iris and Tiffeny hope to impact lasting change amongst this vulnerable community.
- Michele Chien, Jennifer Young and Emily Choi focused on educating Nurse Next Door caregivers on oral health needs of the homebound seniors. The nursing staff of this mobile nursing service, while somewhat versed on oral care, may not typically have the depth of knowledge required in to provide adequate oral health care services to their clients. Additionally, home bound seniors may lack the manual dexterity to provide their own oral self-care which leaves this key element of health largely neglected. Poor oral health can then of course lead to additional health challenges. This student team proposed developing an oral health module to educate the nurses working for Nurse Next Door and use an email promotional advertisement.
- Navdeep Johal, Hayia Mahmood and Mike Skoropad identified the need to focus on the lack of oral health care services by dental hygienists in First Nation communities. Aboriginal people tend to have poorer oral health than the majority of the Canadian population and are under-served in communities. This team proposed a development of a new health resource guide with oral health information focusing on key stakeholders for dental hygienists with financial and educational components. This would supplement First Nations Health Authority (FNHA)’s current health resource guide with substantive health contacts and information on current First Nations community programs. This increased ability to use existing resources would provide dental hygienists with an opportunity to not only collaborate with FNHA but with other organizations such as BCDHA, graduate students and so forth. This may serve to ensure that the oral health needs of First Nation people becomes part of the broader lexicon of health care services provided.
- Karissa Reid, Parveen Sekhon, Emily Munro and Manvir Grewal focused their advocacy project on raising oral health awareness in children living with serious illnesses primarily with the Ronald McDonald House. The Ronald McDonald House operates as a ‘home away from home’ for children and families going through challenging and often life-threatening medical conditions. The home provides information upon arrival to help orient families to the area. This team hopes to develop materials to include in the orientation welcome package to help families understand the ongoing importance of oral health care even in the midst of serious illness. Without a doubt, there is a clear understanding that children and families at Ronald McDonald House are focused on life-saving treatments. That noted, oral care is linked to overall health and is an important part of treatment and healing. Additionally, focusing on needs apart from the serious medical concerns these children have can help to promote a sense of ‘normalcy’ during a challenging time for the child and her/his family.
- Natalie King, Alyssa Barnsley and Miranda Kirker focused on improving oral health care services for the marginalized populations of the Downtown Eastside (DTES) by promoting current UBC dental hygiene community services. The oral health of the marginalized DTES populations is lower as compared to the rest of the country. The principle of engaging the population to existing community dental hygiene settings that are set up to handle their unique needs is key in order to help them develop the personal self-care skills necessary for the development of good oral health. Marginalized populations are often intimidated by the health system and may have limited knowledge and access to care. By utilizing known community settings, and by potentially offering free dental hygiene products and information, this team hopes that the oral care needs to the marginalized DTES population can be improved.
As readers can clearly see, a wide variety of presentations and advocacy proposals were presented. Each team was able to consider the role of the dental hygienist in the broader context of advocacy and brought forward concrete solutions to affect positive systemic change. Class Instructor Diana Lin summed it up by noting, “The students were really creative this year. We challenged them to think outside of the box, integrate health promotion principles, and really push the envelope to see how far reaching the role of a dental hygienist is. As primary health care providers, we are in a position to influence real change and I’m so pleased by the creativity and strong advocacy shown.”
Thank you for inviting BCDHA to listen. It’s inspiring for us to be able to hear about the fantastic work being done. It’s even more fantastic to know that each of you in this class will soon be entering our proud profession.