8 Days – 8 Communities – 8 Clinics – 4,500 Patients, A typical Bridge To Health Brigade

by Ira Sankiewicz, DDS, BSc; Tina Papacosmas, RRDH

Bridge to Health was founded in 2012 by six passionate health care professionals brought together by a common desire to provide health care to those in tremendous need. In 2013, Bridge to Health set out with their first team and have been changing lives in underserved rural communities in Southwest Uganda and Kenya ever since. Providing medical and dental care, musculoskeletal therapy and eye care, Bridge to Health brigades have now touched the lives of over 45,000 patients.

Bridge To Health

Our Mission
• Provide high quality medical and dental care
• Educate local health care practitioners
• Develop, design and implement sustainable, cost- effective long-term solutions
• Build partnerships with local governments and not-for-profit health care organizations in under-served regions of the world

Partnering with local governments and grass-roots initiatives is the key to empowering local healthcare teams to succeed in their work. KIHEFO, a Ugandan NGO, which operates in a district with a population of 2,000,000 with roughly 20 medical doctors and one dentist (1325 dentists would serve that same number of patients in Ontario) has been one of Bridge to Health’s collaborative partners since 2013.

Bridge To Health

For the dental professionals at Bridge to Health, our health camps provide an opportunity to relieve many painful oral infections, introduce basic dental care and work collaboratively with local dental professionals in a dynamic knowledge exchange. With the help of local oral health care providers, our team of dentists and dental hygienists initiate community based dental prevention programs aimed at breaking the cycle of chronic dental diseases.

Bridge to Health stands as a leader in addressing oral health, as part of an interprofessional approach to health care within these communities.

Bridge To Health

Perspective of a patient
Miria Karure, “It’s a miracle, I’ve been healed!” Miria had been prepared to sell everything she owned in order to pay for resective surgery after having received a diagnosis of oral cancer. As a last resort, Miria attended a Bridge to Health clinic. Working collaboratively, the dental and medical team determined that oral cancer was likely not the correct diagnosis. Further investigation lead to a diagnosis of an oral syphilitic gumma treated with 3 injections of antibiotics.

Successes & Accomplishments
• Engaged in skills exchange with dental officers on topics ranging from preventative, periodontal, restorative, oral surgical procedures and local anaesthetic delivery.
• Initiated a fluoride and oral health education program delivered by local dental officers to school children in the surrounding communities.
• Introduced Canadian and American dental students to global service learning in collaboration with the Faculty of Dentistry University of Toronto and Boston University Henry M Goldman School of Dental Medicine.
• Initiated a denture program, in which this past year witnessed the local dental officers independently fabricating removable partial dentures in the health camps.
• Secured funding through collaborative research, that will support our local partner’s dental clinic and monthly outreach, which allows for continued care for patients throughout the year.
• Implemented a school-based brushing and fluoride program in Kenya for a community that has enthusiastically embraced improving their oral healthcare.

Bridge To Health

Perspective of a dental student
Our experience with Bridge to Health left us with a sense of optimism and enthusiasm to continue challenging the limits of healthcare.”

Our team of dedicated volunteers are the heart of our organization. The continued support of our dental community is greatly needed and appreciated so that Bridge to Health can continue to grow and serve other communities in need. www.bridgetohealth.ca tina@bridgetohealth.ca or ira@bridgetohealth.ca.

Oral Health welcomes this original article.

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