Many children in the Philippines never brush their teeth simply because their parents cannot afford to buy toothbrushes and toothpaste, and also lack a sufficient knowledge of its importance.
Dental health is a serious problem in the Philippines, where an estimated 97% of six-year-old Filipino children suffer from dental decay, and a huge percentage of 6-12 year- olds typically have 4-5 rotten teeth in their mouth! (In fact it’s not unheard of where the children not only have disease in their gums, but in many cases the infection goes right through to the outside of the skin on their cheeks!)
The problems are so serious that an average of 15% of elementary school children (and up to 40% in some schools) are absent from school simply because of serious and debilitating toothaches.
Coupled with these statistics, the population of the Philippines also consumes the highest concentration of sugars, sodas, and sweets. of anywhere in the world. (Would you believe Cola first being ingested in baby bottles!?)
Rise Above Foundation therefore adopted the “Essential Health Care Package" (a WHO program designed for developing countries) and applied it in several elementary schools throughout the region. Children and teachers are educated on dental health, the children presented with their own toothbrushes and toothpaste, and daily brushing is incorporated into the school program in order to instill proper dental hygiene habits in these students, all of which is regularly monitored. Volunteer dentists visit schools and educate the children, the teachers and school principals on the how’s and why’s of good oral healthcare. Later the children’s parents are instructed as well.
The Essential Health Care package includes sufficient toothpaste for an entire year, a toothbrush, a bar of soap, tablets for de-worming, as well as lice treatment. All this for less than $1 per year per child.
Additionally, the children are educated on basics that most in western countries would take for granted, such as the need to wash their hands and clean their nails. to avoid intestinal parasites. Children are also screened for lice and skin allergies as part of the process. (Research shows that more than 6 out of 10 Filipino children in the elementary school system have tapeworms, which compounds the problem of malnutrition.)
Such a simple thing as hand washing with soap has been calculated to save a million lives in developing countries. How much more so in areas where children and adults scavenge for garbage to make a living, where the estimated lifespan may otherwise be as low as 36 years of age!