Project Heal

The Problem

Project HEAL is aiming to serve the area around the community of Lawra, Ghana. The district of Lawra has two health care centers, yet the five person medical team lacks a dental specialist. The hospital serves about 40,000 residents, of whom very few have access to oral health care. According to the World Health Organization, there are 0.018 dentists for every 1000 individuals in Ghana; and for a small, rural area like Lawra, this statistic looks even grimmer. Without access to dental services, people in Ghana have poor oral hygiene, causing problems such as cavities and periodontal disease; untreated periodontal disease can lead to more catastrophic health issues like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The donations raised and the projects completed by team members of Project HEAL in Ghana will not solve the problem of lack of availability of dentists in this third world nation. However, by providing educational workshops to children in the elementary schools in Ghana, and supplying approximately 3,000 children and families with toothbrushes and toothpaste, we are providing a sustainable service. Teaching the children how to care for their teeth and gums will help prevent periodontal disease later in life that could digress into more life threatening issues.

Plan of Action

Our long term goal is striving to improve the livelihood of the citizens in Ghana through oral health care and demonstrate the effects that proper oral health has on overall health. We anticipate our project to become sustainable in Ghana through teaching and by stressing the importance of continuing oral care once the donated materials are consumed. To this end, we measure our success based not only upon the quantity of dental supplies we can gather and ultimately distribute to the citizens of Lawra, but also upon the increase of knowledge of dental hygiene and the increase of effective and lasting dental care practices in the region. The beginning stages of our project aimed to create awareness about Project HEAL in our community while informing supporters about the lack of dentists in Lawra, Ghana. Nevertheless, our current short term success is being measured by reaching our goal of 3,000 toothbrushes and 3,000 tubes of toothpaste before the trip to Ghana in May. The fundraising began in September and currently we have 1,503 toothbrushes, 1,271 tubes of toothpaste and 223 containers of floss. This number is just shy of our halfway mark and with projects underway and with donations coming in by the day, I truly believe our goal can be achieved. To reach this goal, we are currently holding dental drives in elementary schools, contacting dentists throughout North Carolina, writing proposals to toothpaste and toothbrush supply companies, and sponsoring fundraisers to alleviate shipping costs. Overall, our impact will be measured by returning to Ghana in the summer of 2010 when we hope to begin a new phase to Project HEAL. We hope to use video conferencing between US dentists and local doctors and nurses to which would enable US dentists to demonstrate ways to alleviate oral pain and care for patients. We are aware that the supplies we donate will not last for a year, but feel that by distributing toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste and educating about proper oral care, individuals will be more likely purchase these items from local stores in the future. Winning a Plum Grant would enable our organization to be able to purchase toothbrush covers to distribute in order to increase sanitation, to purchase plastic bags in which to package the supplies for distribution, and to print flyers demonstrating proper oral health techniques for the citizens of Lawra.

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