Ministry of Health Technical Working Group gives ‘green light’ to Oral Health Policy drafting

At the National Oral Health Policy Workshop held in Lilongwe on 13th and 14th February 2020, Brian Chaima from the Ministry of Health Planning Department provided a clear exposition of the stages that are required to develop a new policy in Malawi. This sequence of activities is explained in detail in an earlier post on this blog, but in summary the first steps are to produce a Concept Paper and a Narrative Review of existing relevant literature, together with completion of a detailed Situation Analysis.

The Oral Health Policy Task Force has now met via Zoom on 13 occasions, with scheduled two hour meetings taking place twice per month. Final drafts of the three preparatory documents listed above were completed by March 2021 and the next stage was for the Ministry of Health Essential Health Package Technical Working Group (EHP TWG) to consider the work completed to date and, if satisfied, to provide a mandate to the Task Force to draft the Oral Health Policy Document itself.

With financial support from the MalDent Project grant, a meeting of the EHP TWG was set up in the Viphya Conference Suite at the Sunbird Capital Hotel in Lilongwe on Thursday 8th April 2021. Those members who were local attended the meeting in person, with appropriate social distancing, whilst others of us joined via Zoom.

Annie Mwapasa, the MalDent Project Administrator at the University of Malawi College of Medicine, made an excellent job of organising and running the meeting. I joined from my desk at Glasgow Dental School.

The EHP TWG meeting about to commence – online for those of us who could not get to Lilongwe in person

In the two weeks prior to the meeting, we had prepared a slide deck so that we could give a detailed presentation to the TWG members. Peter Chimimba, the Maldent Project lead at the College of Medicine, had travelled to Lilongwe from Blantyre and he made an excellent job of delivering the presentation to the delegates.

Peter Chimimba shows our opening slide to introduce our work to date

The three images we chose for the title slide included photos taken during the pilot oral health survey conducted by Smileawi in 2019 in six schools, a photograph of Peter with Ben Macpherson MSP when he visited the College of Medicine Lilongwe campus in September 2018 and finally, one of the images from the Stage 1 design work for the new dental teaching facility and student hub planned for the Blantyre campus of the College of Medicine.

Peter took the TWG through key details of the Policy Concept Paper…

the Narrative Review and the Situation Analysis…

The presentation and the three documents themselves stimulated a lively discussion, with many interesting and valuable perspectives aired by those present.

Ultimately, it was agreed by the TWG that our preparations were in order and that we should now proceed to draft the Policy Document itself, informed by all the previous work we have completed. That drafting will now form the basis of the continuing twice monthly meetings of the Task Force. We have set the end of June 2021 as the deadline for completion and approval of the policy, so we have our work cut out. However, there is a real determination and drive from those involved to move forward and to progress to the implementation phase of the work, which will be critically important if we are to convert the words that appear in our policy into actions that improve the oral health of Malawi’s citizens.

Grateful thanks are due to Noel Kasomekera, Technical Assistant – Non Communicable Disease Unit and National Coordinator, Malawi NCDI Poverty Commission, Ministry of Health Headquarters, for facilitating the EHP TWG meeting and for his continuing outstanding support of the Oral Health Policy Task Force.

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