Army dentist Major Logan performs a dental check on patient. [20110413_PH_T1015674_0010]
18 April 2011
Over the past week, New Zealand Defence Force doctors, dentists and nursing officers on the island of Niuatoputapu (Tonga) have worked to help the future health of the local population, as part of Pacific Partnership.
A group of Defence doctors and nursing officers have carried out First Aid courses, clinics and a health and hygiene course, while local teachers, parents and school children have learned preventative dental and medical methods. The island has only one dental hygienist and one nurse to cater to over 800 people.
A team of nine Defence dentists and dental hygienists have had demanding schedules, giving hands-on presentations in preventative dentistry and conducting dental exams for over 200 patients, with around 150 of these patients being school aged children. More than 100 children and teenagers have had dental checks already and have been through a preventative dentistry course in which they are given a toothbrush and utensils to keep and are taught how to brush effectively.
The island's only dental therapist, Luisa Salt said it has been great to have the support of the Defence Force dentists to both inform and work on the populations dental needs.
“It’s been more than a huge help to me and the families here.”
The Officer in command of the dental section of the exercise, Major Tiffany Logan said that one of the most important areas to teach and promote dental health was with the school age children.
“Our goal is to leave a lot of knowledge that enables the people here to prevent further avoidable health issues.”
Defence Force Nursing Officer, LT Richard Fitzgerald agrees that education will have the most lasting impact on health for the locals.
“The local community do extremely well considering the facilities at their disposal. They don’t always have access to clean running water and toilets. We have been very well received and our work is appreciated.”
The commitment of all the medical staff is evident in that several Defence doctors, medics and dentists on this exercise are reservists taking time away from their full-time jobs in New Zealand to contribute to the medical section of Pacific Partnership.
New Zealand’s contribution to Pacific Partnership will focus on the nations of Tonga and Vanuatu, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade supporting the development work with approximately $500,000 of funding from the New Zealand Aid Programme.
Contact Nicole Munro, Defence Communications Group, 021 569 148.
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