Supporting the Oral Health Policy – a new appointment, CPD approval, and linking with the Ministry of Education

As regular visitors to our blog will know, one of the main work streams of the MalDent Project is the development of an Oral Health Policy for Malawi, together with an Implementation Plan. Work on drafting the policy is nearing completion in preparation for a planned launch in August. Three recent developments map perfectly onto the policy objectives.

First, the Ministry of Health has recently appointed Dr Martha Chipanda as Malawi’s National Oral Health Coordinator. Martha has been involved with the MalDent Project from the outset in 2017, when she was part of the team that drafted the curriculum for the newly established BDS programme at the Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (formerly the University of Malawi College of Medicine). At that point Martha was a dental surgeon at the Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, but more recently she has moved to her current position as a dental surgeon at Mzuzu Central Hospital. Martha will continue to deliver clinical service in Mzuzu in addition to the duties of her new role in the Ministry of Health.

Martha (centre) at the Ministry of Health in Lilongwe following a meeting in 2018 relating to a task-shifting proposal from Bridge2Aid in support of emergency dentistry provision

Secondly, after a significant amount of work by its Secretary, Dr Wiston Mukiwa, the Dental Association of Malawi has been officially approved by the Medical Council of Malawi as a provider of CPD.

Wiston receiving thanks and a gift from Andrew Paterson of Bridge2Aid after he had spoken at a Smileawi CPD meeting in Mzuzu in 2019

The Dental Association has received the relevant certification, dated 22 June 2021 and valid for a period of five years:

Like Martha, Wiston has been involved with the MalDent Project from its inception and is now a part-time Lecturer on the new BDS programme. His role as Secretary of the Dental Association of Malawi has been a real asset to many of our activities since 2017, particularly in our communications with the Ministry of Health. It is fitting that the first educational materials to be supported with official CPD credits for dental therapists are the learning modules launched on 31st March this year following the Scottish Government – funded collaboration between the Dental Association of Malawi, Smileawi, Bridge2Aid and ProDentalCPD.

Thirdly, a major emphasis within the new Oral Health Policy will be on prevention of dental disease in children. Ronald Manjomo, our PhD student at Kamuzu University of Health Sciences, is making great progress with his ongoing review of systematic reviews of dental caries prevention in children and case studies from around the world. Professor David Conway, from the University of Glasgow Dental School Community Oral Health Research Group, has joined the supervisory team and is providing excellent additional guidance and support for Ronald.

All smiles at a recent PhD meeting with Ronald

Linked to Ronald’s work is the planned national Child Oral Health Survey, scheduled for 2022. A critical initial step has been to establish contact with the Malawi Government Ministry of Education. Following discussions with our Oral Health Policy Task Force colleagues in the Ministry of Health, we arranged a meeting with Albert Saka (Chief School Health Nutrition HIV and AIDS Officer) which took place on 22 June 2021.

Peter Chimimba, Albert Saka, Lorna Macpherson and I at the conclusion of our meeting

Albert was extremely positive about the planned survey and together with his team has agreed to guide and support us through the processes that are required to gain the necessary permissions and to establish appropriate communication channels with the schools and teachers.

These three areas of progress will all help to support implementation of the national Oral Health Policy scheduled for sign-off and launch this Summer.

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