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.
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
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.