On July 11, 2018, Columbia Global Centers hosted a Kenya/Brazil oral health learning laboratory workshop on opportunities for addressing Challenges in Oral Health and dental care. The workshop brought together stakeholders from government, private and public institutions. Each stakeholder brought a wealth of experience and provided opportunities for knowledge-sharing.
Over the past three years, Columbia Global Centers Nairobi has been facilitating a collaboration between the University of Nairobi-School of Dental Sciences, the Kenya Dental Association and the Columbia University Medical Campus. The project has been overseen by Dr Kavita Ahluwalia – an Associate Professor of Dental Medicine at Columbia Medical College. Prior to this, we hosted an oral health summit in 2016, which brought together key stakeholders from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to discuss the integration of oral health into existing health systems in East Africa.
For the July 2018 workshop, we hosted faculty from the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil, and faculty and students from Columbia University and the University of Nairobi for a three-day visit which built on the previous work and caped on a year-long project to develop a learning laboratory between Kenya and Brazil. Participants, who included academics, clinicians and policymakers discussed access to oral health, preventive services and dental public health initiatives and also sought to develop collaborative models that can be used to inform oral health programming and policy in both countries.
Some highlights that were discussed during the workshop were on the need for medical practitioners to campaign for dental health education and lobby insurance companies including the National Health Insurance Fund to increase coverage and allocation to oral health. Another important point that was brought across was on the need to take advantage of the current government’s goodwill like the provision of insurance to the ageing population but ensuring that people in this bracket have access to dental care.
As part of the Presidents Global Innovation Fund, the project achieved major objectives by bringing together stakeholders who had the opportunity to engage, to learn and to express concerns to the governing body in this sector – all this serving as a major pathway to policy change, development and implementation.