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Tunxis Community College Expands Service Learning Program in CT and Beyond

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Service learning is an integral part of the dental hygiene program at Tunxis Community College (TCC). Over the years, students and faculty have participated in many local service learning projects in Connecticut, nationwide within the Navajo and Lakota tribes, and internationally in Belize and Honduras.Tunxis Logo

This year, the department is expanding the service learning program by adding a new destination. The faculty and staff at TCC are planning an interprofessional health education program that will benefit the children of a small island community in the Bahamas. This program, to begin in January 2016, will target 180 children who attend the R.N. Gomez All Age School in Great Harbor Cay. Services will be delivered by occupational therapy (OT) students from Quinnipiac University and dental hygiene (DH) students from Tunxis Community College. An interview with the island nurse revealed that long-term health is less of a consideration than short-term wants and needs. As such, the culture is not oriented toward preventive care. The goal is to provide a sustainable preventive program for this population.

The new program will provide all students at the school with dental screenings and education, vision health, and general health education, including physical activity. Children will receive education as a class, rotating among dental health, visual health and physical activity stations in the parish across from the school. These interprofessional programs will rely on the discipline-specific and shared knowledge from occupational therapy and dental hygiene.

Dental services will include screening for obvious decay and immediate care, followed by fluoride varnish. Each child will receive a new toothbrush and instructions for promoting his or her dental health. Some children will receive preventive sealants based on need. During these screenings, DH students will take the lead while the OT students organize groups of students, prepare them for screening (some children may be scared or have sensory issues) and help structure education using age-appropriate methods.

Education about eye health will include best practices for protection from the sun, nutrition and computer vision health. The program will provide the students with sunglasses, and students will also decorate caps that will protect their eyes. OT students will lead the education, while DH students will assist with fitting and choosing sunglasses.

DH and OT students will also work together to plan fun, age-appropriate physical activities based on the students’ culture, resources and preferences. Popular sports include beach volleyball and soccer. 

Preparation for the program will begin this month when faculty from both institutions visit the island to drop off supplies for use in January. In addition, faculty will reach out to contacts on the island in hopes of expanding the program. 

Published on August 12, 2015.
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