The Dental Health Foundation welcomes the publication of The National Traveller Health Action Plan 2022-2027.
Its' Vision is:
‘For a health service in which Travellers can achieve
their full potential in respect of their physical, mental and social
wellbeing and where the wellbeing of all Travellers is valued and
supported at every level. The vision is underpinned by one in which
Traveller families have equitable outcomes in health resulting in a
healthy and resilient Traveller community.”
Goal 2 of the Action Plan is to ‘Improve Traveller’s equality of access, participation and outcomes in mainstream health services through a human-rights based approach’.
HIQA published guidelines in 2019 ‘Guidance on a Human Rights-based Approach in Health and Social Care Services’ which translate human rights principles into day-to-day practice and service delivery which you can read HERE
We are delighted to see that a planned outcome from Goal 2 is ‘Increased engagement of Travellers in chronic disease prevention and treatment programmes’.
Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children.
The Dental Health Foundation previously collaborated with the Mid-West Primary Health Care Network for Travellers, and Margaret O’Malley Oral Health Promoter, HSE on a project ‘Promotion of Children’s Oral Health, 0-8 year olds, in the Traveller Community’
The focus of the initiative was to target parents/carers of 0 to 8 year olds in the Traveller Community and was delivered using a one-to-one approach by Community Health Workers. These Community Health Workers (CHW’s) attended training sessions to give them the required skills and confidence before went they went back out into the community. The training was delivered in a way that respected Traveller culture and way of life. The CHW’s delivered oral health promotion information specifically to the parents of 0-8 year olds as five key messages:
- Clean your baby's gums and teeth from birth
- The main causes of tooth decay is regularly eating or drinking sugary foods and drinks and not cleaning your gums and teeth properly
- It's not the amount of sugar in food or drink that causes damage to your teeth, it's the number of times you have sugar
- Help your child brush their teeth twice a day
- Always keep dental appointments
These messages were developed to help the parents understand the causes of tooth decay and how to prevent it, the importance of diet in relation to oral health, the importance of effective assisted tooth brushing twice a day (morning and night) and why it is important to keep dental appointments.
We all need good oral health for our overall health and wellbeing, for quality of life and healthy ageing. Improving the oral health of children in the Traveller Community in Ireland is an important positive step. It is through cost effective initiatives such as this project, we can all make a real difference in promoting good oral health and well-being and it is something that should be rolled out nationally to reach all of these parents/carers and their children in the Traveller Community.