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Improving the oral health of preschool children who are most at risk of poor oral health outcomes

Poor oral health is largely preventable, yet it is also one of the most common chronic health problems experienced by New Zealanders of all ages. A body of evidence links poor oral health to several risk factors and determinants common to other chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

 ‘Good oral health for all, for life’ is the strategic vision for oral health in New Zealand and starts with promoting oral health for the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society.

In delivering to this vision, the Oral Health Toothbrush and Toothpaste (TTI) initiative seeks to improve the oral health of preschool children who are most at risk of poor oral health outcomes. This includes Māori and Pacific preschoolers and children living in high-deprivation areas. Participating providers give free toothbrushes, toothpaste and educational resources to preschool children and members of their whānau as part of their core services or targeted outreach activities.

Kinnect Group member Nan Wehipeihana recently collaborated on an evaluation of the Phase 1 implementation of the Oral Health Toothbrush and Toothpaste (TTI) initiative.

 Key findings of the evaluation included:

  • the design of the Toothbrush and Toothpaste initiative was fit for purpose and had been implemented well

  • the ordering and distribution systems worked well ensuring products were easily getting to providers who then give them to preschool children and their whānau

  • the programme is reaching the intended target groups of Māori and Pacific preschool children and children in low socio-economic households and their whānau, based on TTI provider locations. 

 TTI is meeting a real whānau need. It addresses financial barriers by providing free products to whānau and, in turn, supports a whānau-led approach to modelling good toothbrushing. The programme is well positioned to increase its focus on supporting whānau to embed good toothbrushing behaviours.

The Evaluation Report can be viewed here.