Students and staff from the University of Dundee have come together to investigate the barriers preventing vulnerable social groups from maintaining good oral and general health.
The annual Equality and Diversity Symposium, part of the School of Dentistry’s Dental Public Health programme, saw representatives from the Scottish Prison Service discuss topics including work underway with young fathers in prison; the typical lifestyle led by offenders prior to being incarcerated; the barriers to oral health they experience while in custody; and the role of an NHS Oral Health Coordinator in the prison system.
The students will now take the opportunity to engage with local people who have complex needs - including those with mental health problems, learning disabilities, those experiencing homelessness, and those who have spent time in custody - to discuss with them their experience of the enablers and barriers to attaining and maintaining good oral health.
This activity helps improve students’ awareness of the needs of different population groups, and gives them a deeper understanding of health and its determinants. Importantly, this interaction gives some of the most vulnerable in society a chance to discuss issues relating to their oral health outside of a potentially intimidating dental setting.
Dr Sucharita Nanjappa, lecturer in Dental Public Health at the University of Dundee, said:
“Hearing from speakers with first-hand experience of working with vulnerable groups is a more productive way of exploring this area, addressing any preconceptions that students might have, and helping them develop a holistic approach to patient care.”
Students heard from Kirsty Docherty, Parenting Officer at Her Majesty’s Youth Offender Institution Polmont; Ally Jackson, Physical Education Instructor at Her Majesty’s Prison Perth; and Carrie Phillips, NHS Health Coordinator.
They were also joined by Annalu Waller OBE, Professor of Human Communication Technologies in the University of Dundee’s Computing department and Alan McGregor from the Dundee Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Research Group.
For more information on studying dentistry at the University of Dundee, visit our course pages.
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