Oral Health Promotion Research Group (Irish Link) - Dental Health Foundation Bursary 2008

Oral Health & Nutrition Training for the Carers of People with Learning Disabilities who Attend Adult Training Centres in the WHSCT Area: - A project to encourage better oral health and healthy snacking in adults with special needs.

Dental disease is the most frequent problem experienced by adults with a learning disability. It is also true that dietary factors heavily influence oral health status and well as contributing to overweight and obesity.

The Oral Health Implementation Team in the Western Health and Social Care Trust undertook a needs assessment in June 2007 to examine how key oral health and healthy eating messages were being delivered in adult training centres in the area. The group also wanted to find out if staff felt there was a need for further training.

Fourteen centres out of 22 responded to a telephone interview and questionnaire. Key findings were as follows:

  • 100% of centres agreed that there was a need for training and would welcome an oral health and nutrition resource that could be used and referred to at local level.
  • 93% of centres are willing to dedicate time to implement an oral health resource that would benefit clients.

A pilot project was developed and undertaken with the help of the five main Adult Training Centres and their respective satellite units, throughout the Western Health and Social Care Trust area.

The aim of the study was to educate and improve the oral health and nutrition knowledge of day care staff working within adult training centres and to assess the level and nature of their training needs. The project also aimed:

  • To develop and deliver a training programme to 50 staff and carers at participating day care and adult training centres.
  • To develop a resource pack focusing on the oral health and nutrition needs of adults with learning disabilities.
  • To provide clients attending pilot centre with toothbrushes, toothpastes and storage racks for the duration of the pilot.
  • To evaluate the project

Because of the successful partnership approach between OHIT 2 and the WHSCT Adult Training Centre managers, all WHSCT adult training centre staff participated in the project and not just the 50 as originally estimated. This means that up to 500 clients attending these facilities are currently benefiting from toothbrushing and healthy snacking programmes as opposed to an estimated 200.

Since the project ended, further sessions have also been delivered, by request, with several of the Adult Training Centres. These provided supplementary instruction for staff looking after clients with more challenging disabilities and behaviour as well as information sessions for parents of younger clients.