Our first trip to Zambia was a profound success. Our team of five dentists and four non-dental assistants saw 4,330 children in just five days.
The doctors were Kim Nichelini, Jeffrey A Nichelini, Bruce Fong, Marc Urza, and Bob Renner. Trevor Fong, Dr. Alan Wihippy, Jeff Meredith, and Purobi Phillips were the assistants.
We worked in Livingstone one day and four days in Choma. We had good local help from Emmanuel Beck Banda, who managed logistics, and a few other wonderful locals. They made it all possible.
We traveled from India's northern tip in Ladakh at 18,000 feet, then to Aleppi, Madurai, Chennai, and Kolkata at its southern tip for assessments and fluoride varnish applications.
Ladakh in the north, known as Little Tibet, is a remote mountainous area bordering China and Pakistan. Here in a small, ancient Aaryan village, we saw more than 100 children in a village school. Unfortunately more than 23% of the children needed immediate dental care due to lack of nutritional food and easy access to junk food. Yes, in this remote area Food Incorporated (Nestle, Hindustan Lever) sends trucks full of junk food and drinks for the seven months of the year when roads are open.
In Chennai we saw 54 children in a boarding school for orphans in Ramakrishna Mission. This monastic organization in India is engaged in mass education, health care, and disaster relief, among other charitable activities. They welcomed us to help the children in both Madurai and Chennai. The oral health of the children in this orphanage was excellent presumably because they get healthy, nutritious food and there is no junk food or drinks available in the orphanage. Only one child needed to see a dentist and we were reassured that it will get done. We will follow up.
In Madurai we saw more than 450 children in a Ramakrishna Mission Primary day school. We made diagnoses and applied fluoride varnish to all the children who needed it. About 60 children needed treatment and three needed immediate care. We wrote a report for the monks and the school director. We were reassured that the parents will be notified and every case will be followed up.
In Kolkata we went to a school that was established in 1962. The school is located in an underprivileged area and serves the local children. It was a difficult day due to torrential rain and flooding. Out of 150 children, only 56 made it in. We purchased tooth brushes for all 150 children. The 56 children we checked have mostly very good oral health. Only two children needed to see a dentist. All of them knew basic oral hygiene and were eager to participate in the educational part of our project.
We assessed some children in a pre-school in the backwater of Kerala, India. Almost all of them have perfect oral health. They do eat healthy, traditional food. At school they get one meal which is usually beans and rice. The teacher said they love it.
We worked for two weeks in Katmandu with 25 first and second grade children in one Kid's Campus School and with more than 200 children at their other campuses. We provided oral health examinations, fluoride varnish, and nutritional guidance to all the children. We talked about the evils of junk food and the benefits of healthy food. We counseled parents individually about their children's oral health status and the importance of diet.
We collaborated with the first and second graders to produce a play about nutrition and oral health. Each child had a part to rehearse and perform. The "germs" were the stars of the show.
The Kid's Campus School administrators were so motivated they not only changed their school meals, but also declared all campuses junk food free.
We saw another 100 or so children at a private school and performed oral health assessments. A high proportion (more than 22%) of these children suffered from significant oral disease due mostly to parents feeding them junk food (chips, chocolate, and juice boxes).
We visited children's burn and oncology units at a local hospital and provided oral health exams.
We grew attached to all the children and hope to return in the future.
In Botswana we found the government program for general health for children is strong. In a village in Kazungula we have evaluated a number of children. Every child seems to have perfect oral health mostly due to lack of junk food and sugary drinks along with a strong education system.