The Fono

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Brushing up on oral health

Through a special partnership with AUT University, The Fono’s Community Team recently received oral health training from AUT oral health students. The initiative aims to upskill community workers on good oral health practices, so they can be passed to community for better oral health outcomes.

The Fono and AUT have teamed up to combat some of the alarming oral health disparities in Pacific and Maori communities when compared to the overall NZ population.

The partnership was facilitated by The Fono’s Dr Rohini Khareedi, who is a Dentist based at the Henderson clinic and who also lectures at AUT on oral health.

Dr Khareedi says the project was set up with the aim to prevent disease by promoting oral health education. It involves dentistry students teaching community workers about good oral health practices, so that they can take what they’ve learned and spread their knowledge into the community.

“We want to promote good oral health, and these programmes provide the people who can engage with the community with the tools and knowledge to do so,” she says.

The first year AUT oral health students run training groups with The Fono’s community team.

The students pass on basic oral health guidelines to the team who then are able to better educate their respective communities, while applying their own experience and cultural lens to the message.

AUT lecturer Tanya Cleland, a registered dental therapist who oversees the AUT student teaching team, says the arrangement is ideal.

“We come and educate people who can then go out to reach, persuade and educate their community, more than we could ever do on our own,” she says.

“It spreads our net of knowledge further and wider.”

Common issues which plague Pacific and Maori communities, such as dental decay caused by poor oral hygiene, can be especially be avoided through this education programme.

Clinical Director of Dental at The Fono, Dr Mowafaq Amso, says reaching the families where these problems are most prevalent is the key.

He adds that the best people for the job are those on the frontline.

“To have our social workers, along with our health professionals, being able to pass on that knowledge in such a practical way, is going to help us really tackle the problems first hand.”

Enua Ola Community Project Coordinator Tenga Schwalger says her community will benefit.

“I liked how [the training] gave information that I can take back to my community,” says Tenga, who learned good oral health tips like the proper way to brush teeth, the best type of toothpaste to buy and education around flossing - simple tips that can make a difference.

Enua Ola Parish Nurse Peleiupu Tautua says the session was highly informative, leaving her with the confidence to be able to take what she’s learned and pass it on to the families she comes into contact with.

“It’s ideal for us working in the community,” she says.

Dr Amso hopes that AUT and The Fono can continue to work together in educating and empowering staff to go on and educate their communities.

The Fono intends to run at least two sessions a year, expanding on topics already covered while also adding new sessions.

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