Minister agrees more investment needed to boost dental health care

BY ANTHONY LEWIS
Observer writer

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

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LUCEA, Hanover — Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton says there is need for oral health to be an accepted standard of the public health care infrastructure.


“Frankly speaking, my rallying cry is that oral health needs to be mainstreamed as part of the overall public health infrastructure. It is too much the exception as opposed to the rule,” said Dr Tufton, who argued that dental health is one of a number of areas within the public health sector that is currently underserved.


According to the minister, addressing the issue would involve the restructuring of the overall organisational structure of public health, such as how people are employed, the positioning of people, the ratio of citizens to professionals that are required, the setting up of more health infrastructure, as well as embracing the ministry's dental health sealant programme in schools.


The minister was speaking at last Thursday's official launch of the Rotary Club of Lucea and Great Shape! Inc mobile dental clinic on the grounds of the Anglican church hall here in Lucea.


Data from the Ministry of Health and Wellness has shown that there are currently 89 dentists and 89 dental nurses serving some 300,000 patients annually in 88 public dental health clinics across the island.


Dr Tufton said in light of these numbers the health sector is barely scratching the surface, hence the importance of partnerships.


“We really are, in the context of those numbers, barely scratching the surface. Indeed, we should be seeing probably four, five times, if we go by the guidelines of getting your regular six-month check-up and focusing on prevention, as opposed to cure. The truth is, we should be doing so much more,” said the minister.


The mobile dental clinic will provide free dental care to thousands of Jamaicans in remote rural communities by providing cleaning, fillings, extractions, root canals, dentures and other services.
The unit, a Yutong coach, which has been transformed into a customised two-chair dental clinic, was made possible through collaboration between the Rotary Club of Apple Valley in the United States and the Rotary Club of Lucea in Hanover.


Executive director of Great Shape! Inc Joseph Wright said the acquisition will significantly expand the reach of the group, adding that next March the dental programme will embark on an islandwide road trip, visiting 14 communities.


Dental volunteers who are part of the Great Shape Inc's mission are all hosted at Sandals and Beaches Resorts with logistical, infrastructural and staff support covered by the hotel's philanthropic arm — the Sandals Foundation.


Heidi Clarke, executive director at the Sandals Foundation, said increasing access to health-care services is a key component of the foundation's work in improving the lives of the region's people.
“Healthy people make healthy communities. We are happy to be a long-standing partner of Great Shape! Inc and we are pleased to see the expansion of this programme, which will now reach even more remote areas of rural communities here in Jamaica,” said Clarke.


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