The MalDent Project – 26 February 2019
Oral and dental disease is very common in Malawi as evidenced by a recent National Oral Health Survey. However, poor access to care is a major problem for the population of 18 million because of a severe lack of a trained dental workforce. A recent policy brief identified that there were only three dentists in public hospitals against an establishment of 44 posts. A great disparity exists between cities and the rural townships.
To tell us more about the problem and the important steps being taken to address it we welcomed Jeremy Bagg OBE, PhD, FDS, FRCPath, FFPH – Professor of Clinical Microbiology, Head of the University of Glasgow Dental School and Vice-Dean (Dental), of the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Glasgow. He was accompanied by Mwapatsa Mipando, Principal of the University of Malawi College of Medicine, who is currently visiting the University of Glasgow, and Niall Rogerson, Lecturer in Restorative Dentistry at Glasgow Dental School and a colleague of Jeremy.
Jeremy explained that currently there is no provision to train dentists within Malawi and that the small numbers registered with the Medical Council of Malawi have all trained overseas. However, the specific needs of Malawi are very different, especially the clinical skills required in the rural districts, remote from secondary or tertiary care centres. In addition, the lack of a national oral health policy is a contributory factor to poor access to oral healthcare and some 49% of adults over the age of 35 suffer from the dental disease, caries.
The MalDent project was set up through a cooperation between the Universities of Glasgow and Malawi with the aim of establishing a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) course in the University of Malawi College of Medicine. This should ensure that the curriculum addresses the specific requirements of that country’s population and that suitably knowledgeable and highly trained dentists come through the system. Many influential and experienced partner, funders and support organisations (such as the Borrow Foundation and ChildSmile) are involved in an early stage of establishing dental clinics which will place a major focus on prevention of oral and dental disease, thus reducing the need for more difficult operative dentistry, which is expensive to deliver. For more information visit www.themaldentproject.com .
Alex Thomson delivered the vote of thanks to Jeremy and his colleagues, acknowledging the humanitarian importance of the project and the huge amount of work undertaken by them.