Hello, my name is Brenda Okumu from Kenya. I graduated with a Bachelors in Dental Surgery from the University of Nairobi and later pursued a Masters in Dental Primary and Public Health at the University of Western Australia. My passion is in oral health promotion and research. Recently I have been a beneficiary of a thesis publishing program, a partnership between the University of Washington and University of Nairobi. Sitting at the experienced feet of Prof Ana Lucia Seminario and Prof Arthur Kemoli has been a great eye opener into world-class research and publishing. For the last 10 years I have been teaching at the School of Dentistry, Moi University. Currently I am at the department of Community, Preventive Dentistry and Periodontology, and have been the outreach coordinator since 2016.
Doing outreach is not only our co-operate social responsibility as an institution but also a key strategy in eliminating and preventing the impact of oral disease particularly among high risk, resource limited populations. We mainly target health schools in slum areas and childrens’ homes within Eldoret town and its environs for oral health education, free dental check-up, and basic treatment such as extraction. For comprehensive management we refer the patients to our facility at the school for subsidised or free treatment. Although the main participants are our faculty and students, over the years we have often partnered with visiting Indiana University dental faculty and students. It is through this partnership that to a large extent we have been able to sustain most of the activities, including offering free or subsidised treatment at the school. We also partner with Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital and Colgate Palmolive Limited, who have often provided manpower, materials and donations of free toothpaste and toothbrushes respectively.
Unfortunately, for the last one and half years we have not had any outreach events due to the Covid -19 situation. The risk for infection, coupled with the increased costs to carter for the extra personal protective equipment required are some of the challenges that compelled us to put the activities on hold. There is need to restrategise on how we can carry on despite the pandemic which, it seems, may be here with us for much longer than we anticipated. Oral health is a key component of general health, and efforts towards primary health care in communities with limited or no access to dental services must not be delayed any longer if we are to sustain the gains that we have already made. Perhaps it is time to engage all the stakeholders in these discussions to allow for new policies on outreach activities and to seek out new partnerships that will support this course.