In an earlier blog post last year I wrote about my fantastic experience as a visitor to a Bridge2Aid (B2A) Dental Training Programme camp in Tanzania (https://wordpress.com/post/themaldentproject.com/171). The model of training Clinical Officers, based in rural areas, to undertake emergency dentistry is one that B2A has refined over 15 years during its activities in Tanzania.
Whilst on that trip, discussions began about the applicability of the model in rural areas of Malawi, since even with the advent of the new BDS programme there will be significant workforce shortages for many years to come. Initial discussions with colleagues in Malawi suggested that this concept would be worth exploring further and in intervening months work has been going on behind the scenes.
In particular a grant application was submitted to the Tropical Health & Education Trust (THET) Africa Grants Programme for a Partnership Award between B2A and the Dental Association of Malawi.
These grants are funded by Johnson & Johnson Global Health and provide up to £10K over a one-year period to support establishment of a partnership. The results were announced recently, as heralded by this tweet:
The great news is that the bid to support the partnership building between B2A and the Dental Association of Malawi has been successful!
The University of Glasgow, via the MalDent Project, is part of this venture, as is the University of Dundee and the charity Smileawi. The key elements of the project are:
- A meeting in Lilongwe on 10th June this year between Paul Tasman (Operations Manager for B2A), Dr Wiston Mukiwa (General Secretary of the Dental Association of Malawi), Dr Nedson Fosiko (Malawian Ministry of Health), Mr Richard Ndovi (Medical Council of Malawi) and myself to hold initial discussions.
- Shaenna Loughnane, Chief Executive Officer of B2A, will visit Malawi in September to coincide with a visit by Smileawi, who will host a conference for dental therapists in the North of the country.
- A needs assessment will be carried out by the Partnership on whether the current B2A training model will meet identified needs in Malawi, and if not what changes need to be made.
- Representatives from the Malawian Ministry of Health and Dental Association of Malawi will be invited to Tanzania to assess delivery of a B2A programme. They will meet with B2A’s Tanzanian Partners, supporters and stakeholders, including the Chief Dental Officer, a Regional Dental Officer and a District Dental Officer.
- Once a potential district for training has been identified by all interested parties, a local Malawian partner will be found to work with the Dental Association of Malawi and B2A to conduct a cross sectional survey in that district. This will assess the oral health literacy of the community, the prevalence of dental pain, trust in potential trainees and current access to pain relief and emergency dental care.
This extensive groundwork will lay the foundations for a pilot Dental Training Programme in Malawi, underpinned by the partnership between B2A, the Dental Association of Malawi and other relevant stakeholders.
If all goes well, then in due course we could see scenes like this one – photographed during my visit to the Dental Training Programme in Chato District, Northern Tanzania last September – in rural areas of Malawi!