Academic Says Pacific Needs More Oral Health Programs

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Expert calls attention to links between oral health and illness

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Sept. 24, 2012) – A New Zealand dentistry academic says there is a critical need for more oral health programs in the Pacific

Dr. Jonathan Leichter, who is from Otago University, runs a dental program in the Cook Islands which for the last seven years has taken students to the islands to treat locals and to teach them about dental hygiene.

The program has received one thousand dollars in new funding to extend the education part of the program to Cook Islanders living in New Zealand.

Dr. Leichter says dental problems aren’t just limited to the Cook Islands and there should be programs to address poor oral health across the Pacific.

"It’s critically important. This is a problem not confined to Cook Islanders, our project is confined to the Cook Islands, but we’d love to see other projects targeting Tonga, Samoa, Niue, Vanuatu. There’s a whole untapped and unmet dental need throughout the entire Pacific."

Dr. Jonathan Leichter says Pacific people need to be taught about the link between gum disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

[PIR editor’s note: Five ni-Vanuatu have been trained in New Zealand for an oral healthcare awareness program to be carried out in schools and churches in Vanuatu this year.]

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