Concluding MCW Global’s Affiliates in Africa with the Outstanding Achievements of MC-Tanzania
With the help of Dr. Deodatus Mtasiwa, MC- Tanzania Board Chairperson, and Fredrick Mena, MC-Tanzania Oral Health Care Program Officer, we will look at how MC-Tanzania achieves its vision.
Through their eyes, we will elaborate on why MC-Tanzania’s contribution to improving oral health and dental care is essential for the community’s general well-being.
Since its establishment in 2008[D1], MC-Tanzania’s projects aim to increase awareness and access to oral health care services (education, screening, and treatment) to communities throughout Tanzania. This takes even greater importance when we acknowledge Tanzania has one dentist for every 120,000 people (the WHO recommends a ratio of 1: 75,000).
So, let’s get a closer look at how the outstanding journey of MC-Tanzania is changing this situation for good.
Keep reading for more insights on the valuable contribution of MC-Tanzania in the country’s oral health, where treatments for dental and oral diseases are limited or too expensive.
Oral Health’s Role in the Quality of Life
Dr. Deodatus initially explains that oral health is a neglected area of global health work and makes up a significant disease burden worldwide. Oral diseases affect most adults globally and as many as 90% of the world’s schoolchildren.
Whereas, in Tanzania, access to oral health care is threatened by workforce shortage, under-resourced training institutions, and inadequate coverage in the national strategies.
“Furthermore, there are few advocacy initiatives within the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (MoHCDGEC)and in the country to remedy the situation. MC-Tanzania sees ample opportunities to scale up oral health services across Tanzania through a proven workable sustainability model.”
He further gives us a perspective on how MC-Tanzania improves the community by focusing primarily on Oral Health Care.
“Oral health is a vital aspect of maintaining overall good health and well-being. Oral health is multi-faceted and includes speaking, smiling, tasting, touching, chewing, swallowing, and conveying a range of emotions through facial expressions of confidence without pain and discomfort.”
Therefore, he believes we should view the importance of oral health care with its links to quality of life.
Capacity Building of Health Professionals
MCW Global and MC-Tanzania use an interdisciplinary approach to build the capacity of health professionals to tackle oral health workforce shortages; he elaborates.
“In 2008, MCW Global and MC-Tanzania embarked on a series of projects to rehabilitate and equip the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Science (MUHAS), School of Dentistry- the only dental graduate school in Tanzania.”
MUHAS trains a workforce to accommodate over 60 million Tanzania citizens.
Also, since 2015 MC-Tanzania has been conducting Dental Outreach Training Program in collaboration with Dental Therapy Training Schools in Mbeya and Tanga.
“The program strengths practical training in community-based dentistry for dental therapists, in line with the MoHCDGEC strategic plans for Oral Health which places substantial weight on preventative service.”
Dental therapists, he goes on, are considered the “backbone of oral health” in Tanzania and serve the oral health community workforce.
“Inadequacy of resources during training of dental therapy students in practical components leaves a gap in the ability of students to set up and carry out basic school-based preventive dental outreaches.”
On a happier note, the design of this educational program intends to put in place a short and intensive practicum training module supporting the implementation of the existing dental therapy training curriculum.
“As a result, the identified gap in the practical experience of dental therapy students is filled.”
Building Healthier and Happier Places
Today, the MUHAS School of Dentistry has significantly increased students’ intake, is operational and financially sustainable, and is actively expanding its departments to increase the number of specialists and can afford to purchase consumable materials required to treat the high volume of patients.
“Providing Dental Therapy students — who live in and will be deployed in the communities- with practical training in community-based dentistry ensures continuity of preventive oral health care community services.”
The dental services in primary schools in these two regions continue to provide primary school students with preventive oral health care services.
“Preventive oral health care services offer a realistic solution to relieving the oral health diseases burden in the country. We also believe that good oral health habits begin at an early age, hence the basis of our focus on primary school students.”
Beyond being MC-Tanzania’s Board Chair, Dr. Deodatus has also served at some of the highest levels of government in health, having in this way a broader experience and knowledge of the country’s health services.
On a related note, he concludes that with MCW Global’s support, MC-Tanzania plans to increase access to modern oral health care by:
- rehabilitating the regional referral hospitals in the country,
- empowering the young oral health workforce by offering leadership training, and
- building the capacity of dental training institutions to provide better training for the oral health workforce.
Youth Benefiting from MC-Tanzania’s Programs
Broadening our discussion, in this part, Fredrick focuses on their cooperation with the school of dental therapists in Tanzania while recalling that in Tanzania, they mark access to oral health care as economic inequality.
Thanks to MC-Tanzania’s work and activities, approximately 8,680 children received oral health education, screenings, and fluoride during dental outreaches in Tanzania. Around 100 dental therapy students have participated in outreaches since 2014. Source: https://mcwglobal.org/oral-health-care/
And Fredrick describes the benefits that children and young people have from MC-Tanzania.
“During the outreach dental, dental therapists’ students gain confidence and skills from attending many patients, especially primary school pupils, while undergoing leadership training that will enable them to do community outreach on their own when they graduate from college.”
Most of these students did their community dental outreach after they graduated.
Speaking from his experience, he adds; reaching the dental therapists in large numbers has the benefit of increasing the coverage to the community.
“This because they [students] replicate what they have been taught during the outreach in their communities.”
The aim is to provide dental therapy students with an opportunity to receive practical hands-on training to supplement theoretical learning.
“All of this is done because oral health is a vital aspect of maintaining overall good health and well-being. It affects people physically and psychologically and influences how they grow, enjoy life, looks, taste food, and socialize.”
Joining voices with Dr. Deodatus, Fredrick conclusively says that the support gained from MCW-Global is crucial towards developing a sustainable model that will allow them to manage the dental outreach on their own and run the school programs.
Some of MCT’s Successes in Numbers
Since 2007, the sustainability project at MUHAS, School of Dentistry, has led to the following achievements:
- MUHAS School of Dentistry introduced five Master of Dentistry programs since 2013;
- The number of students enrolled at MUHAS School of Dentistry for Doctor of Dental Surgery and Master of Dentistry programs has increased from 12 in 2007 to 62 in 2020;
- The average monthly number of patients visiting the clinic increased to 2677 in 2020;
- MUHAS School of Dentistry has increased its ability to purchase consumable supplies, equipment and maintain equipment and software.
By: Gresë Sermaxhaj
Did you miss our last month’s story? No worries, luckily we got you covered: MC-Zambia: An Example of Dedication and Positive Change