For some years now, FCF Project Partner Rise Above Foundation Cebu has been organizing free dental camps for underprivileged children and families on the island of Cebu, and nearby islands of Bohol, Negros and Leyte. Dental teams set up shop in poor elementary schools or sometimes even adjacent to a local garbage dump, their client children way too poor to even own a toothbrush, let alone go to a dentist. An estimated 77 per cent of the population has never been to a dentist.
Dental health is a serious problem here in the Philippines where an estimated 97% of 6–year-old Filipino children suffer from dental decay, and a huge percentage of 6 – 12-year-olds typically have 4 or 5 rotten teeth in their mouth! Their problems are so serious that an average of 15% of elementary school children (up to 40% in some schools) are absent from school because of serious and debilitating toothaches! Their dental state is largely due to their high consumption of sugary foods and soft drinks, coupled with not brushing or taking care of their teeth.
Rise Above Foundation therefore launched the “Essential Health Care” program in elementary schools throughout the region whereby children (and teachers) are educated on dental health, and the children given their own toothbrushes and toothpaste, with daily brushing incorporated into the school program in order to instill proper dental hygiene habits in these kids, which is regularly monitored. (Additionally, the children are educated on basics that most in western countries would take for granted, such as the need to wash their hands and trim and clean their nails etc. to avoid intestinal parasites, as well as being screened for lice and skin allergies at the same time. Such a simple things as hand washing with soap has been calculated to save a million lives in developing countries.)
The simple act of thoroughly brushing their teeth once a day, as is conducted in schools as part of the program, effectively improves tooth decay and deterioration by 50% amongst these kids! –Not to speak of keeping them in school and attentive to their classes and not the pain caused by rotting teeth.
And the cost to change a child’s way in this way? Just $10 provides the toothbrush, toothpaste and dental health education for one year —to change one dozen kids’ lives.