Today we were asked to submit a reflection paper based off our community outreach project we attended in Nashville on July 28, 2014. This “health fair” we attended was supposed to help educate the community in an indigent area in Nashville. What was supposed to be an “educational” affair, was in fact…NOT! So I took this opportunity to share my thoughts on what turned out to be a block party at Medea’s, into what my personal opinion of the health fair should have been. Hygienists are in the business of PREVENTION, not just scrape peoples teeth and hand out free toothbrushes and floss! This post is in no way, shape, or form meant to offend anyone!
The idea of an outreach program is a great idea. The program is not only beneficial for
the people being educated, but also the clinician involved as well. When I think of an outreach
program, at first, I imagine it only being geared toward an indigent area of the community. On
the contrary this thought process is incorrect. Literacy authorities tell us that 27 million
American adults, nearly one out of five, may not be able to read a pamphlet. A survey conducted
by the National Center for Educational Statistics shows that 40 to 44 million adults have literacy
competency at the lowest level (Harvard University, 2012).
It is very important that health care provides keep these numbers in mind when educating
their patients. It is hard to peg who is can understands basic medical/wellness information, and
who cannot. I have had personal experience within the dental office first hand. Patient after
patient will enter the office dressed in a suit and tie, perfect hair, and with great hygiene…or so it
appears from the outside. Once they sit in my chair and an assessment is completed over their
oral cavity, a lot of times I am dumbfounded at how poor their oral hygiene is. People will pay
large amounts of money to look great on the outside but have bridges of calculus, halitosis,
numerous caries, and staining on the inside. This is, partly, due to the fact that they simply are
not educated. It is up to the medical professional to provide adequate oral hygiene instructions
for the general public in and outside of the office. Being a good dental hygienist is more than
scaling and polishing teeth. It is about empathy, prevention, and great education.
The experience we had during our community project, as far as the education provided to
the public, was under-par. The time and effort we put into our research and projects were
beneficial to us as students for learning purposes, but implementing this knowledge to the public
at that time was insufficient. This was not due to our lack of knowledge, but the general lack of
interest the public attendants showed at that time. This is not to say that statement is true for
every single individual there, but as a whole I believe this to be accurate. From my observation
the main focus was on what free items they could get their hands on, not education for their own
personal dental health. This is a shame because a health care provider, who in fact is a dentist
within our community, hosted the event. I feel that they could have geared the activities more
toward education for personal hygiene, dental prevention, and over-all health rather than allow it
to turn into a block party. I do not feel that this health fair, in particular, was as beneficial as it
could have been. The whole point of being a health care professional is to provide the best for
your patients, hold ethical standards, and educate.