Gemma Bridge speaks to Raman Bedi about Global Child Dental Fund, the charity aiming to improve the dental health of the world’s most disadvantaged children.
It was interesting that the Global Child Dental Fund charity was established straight after you left the role of Chief Dental Officer for England in 2006. Was it planned?
Raman Bedi (RB): When I left the Department of Health (DH), I was asked to lead a global child dental health taskforce. We had received DH funding and the project was housed at King’s College London (KCL). The university was very helpful and we have a strong partnership between us.
The project was to improve the oral health of young children, and especially early childhood caries, in low-income countries (LIC).
We knew that we needed a charity to take this work forward and so the Global Child Dental Fund was created.
Tell us a little about the Global Child Dental Fund?
RB: The Global Child Dental Fund is a UK-based charity, aiming to ensure that children living in areas of high deprivation have access to dental care so that they do not suffer unnecessarily from dental decay.
Helping children to have healthy smiles is important for their oral health. It’s also important for their general health and wellbeing. We work mainly in LIC but could, of course, work anywhere – even the UK.
The Global Child Dental Fund was registered in 2008. Had you ever run a charity before?
RB: I had been involved with several charities before, but in truth I had not worked with a children’s charity before.
The Children’s Society is one of UK’s largest children’s charities, with an annual income of approximately £50m. So, in 2006, I became a trustee of the Children’s Society and served for four years. I seconded onto its senior management team and took a lead in the fund raising committee.
It was great experience and I learnt a lot about working with the most deprived children in our society. It helped shape the work of the Global Child Dental Fund.
Of all the honours I have received within dentistry, the Children’s Society awarding life membership of the society in 2018 is one my most treasured.
What are the goals of the Global Child Dental Fund? How does it aim to achieve these?
RB: Primarily, the goal of the Global Child Dental Fund is to improve the oral health of the world’s most disadvantaged children.
As a charity, we seek to do this through a range of projects conducted in collaboration with local people and stakeholders. This is to improve dental healthcare at local, national and global levels. As well as raise social responsibility across the dental profession.
These projects include special care dentistry education and provision; research and capacity building to eradicate infant oral mutilation in East Africa; and support for dental professionals in Jordan to improve child oral health amongst Syrian refugees.
Another of our ongoing projects is the senior dental leadership (SDL) programme. We developed this to support senior dental professionals hone their strategic leadership skills.
Why is leadership development important in the dental profession?
RB: Globally, the dental community has the required skills and knowledge to prevent dental disease, but what is lacking are leaders who can implement strategies and facilitate change to make a real impact.
The Global Child Dental Fund believes that for dental professionals, leadership training is as important as the development of clinical skills. We created the SDL programme to help the most senior dentists, most being chief dental officers.
We have now held 13 annual conferences for the SDL programme. Delegates develop their leadership skills and learn how these skills can improve the dental health of children.
King’s College London Dental Institute and the Harvard School of Dental Medicine jointly host the conferences. There is sponsorship from Colgate-Palmolive and Henry Schein.
What difference has the SDL programme made to child dental health?
RB: In the 13 years that the SDL has been running, we have trained more than 200 senior delegates from 47 countries, including the UK, USA, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Morocco.
Thanks to the collaborative environment afforded by the SDL programme, legacy projects such as Seal Cambodia have launched.
Seal Cambodia is an exciting project that seeks to save children’s teeth in and around Phnom Penh.
After SDL delegates returned to Cambodia, they developed the initiative. They formed a partnership with 10 organisations including dental corporates, NGOs, universities and the Ministry of Health.
Together, the group has treated more than 66,000 children with dental sealants.
This article first appeared in Dentistry magazine. You can read the latest issue here.