Children and families from the most socio-economically deprived areas, including those from Black, Minority and Ethnic communities, have the highest levels of dental decay, overweight and obesity and the poorest health outcomes.
Prevention and early intervention strategies allow for upstream interventions, preventing early need from becoming long-term ill-health. Through promoting positive oral health & healthy eating behaviours and longer-term behaviour change, the impacts of poor health and oral health can be alleviated, allowing children and families to thrive.
Partners Edinburgh Community Food (ECF) and LINKnet Mentoring developed the Scottish Government-funded Eat Well for Oral Health, an inclusive, community-based oral health improvement project. Using food, oral health and nutrition education, the partnership project promotes overall health and wellbeing for whole families.
The key deliverables are:
- Healthy Eating: Supporting families’ understanding of balanced diets and cooking nourishing meals from scratch.
- Information and Awareness: Improving communities’ knowledge of diet and nutrition, highlighting how food and drink impact (oral) health. Increasing awareness of oral health services among vulnerable & minority ethnic families. Co-designed & delivered in a culturally appropriate way.
- Practice: Using food, social connectivity and good dental care practices to improve health and wellbeing. Developing cooking skills whilst incorporating nutrition and oral health information. ECF use every opportunity to signpost participants to further support services.
- Advocacy: Advocating for vulnerable children and young people who may be at risk of poor oral health. Supporting families to prioritise oral health by promoting registration with dentists. Encouraging regular attendance and providing interpreters.
- Connections: Mapping existing community groups to co-ordinate with local programmes focusing on minority ethnic minorities and promoting healthy living. Developing targeted support by identifying gaps in nutrition knowledge.
- Capacity Building: Developing a ‘Train the Trainer’ toolkit, online training and a digital NHS Open Badge to scale and spread. Strengthening knowledge, confidence and skills of community facilitators and volunteers by providing training, allowing them to effectively lead and manage groups in their own communities.
ECF AfN Nutritionists and LINKnet Oral Health Development Officers have delivered 6-week cooking, nutrition and oral health sessions to communities in 19 locations across Edinburgh and East Lothian. People gain confidence in cooking nourishing and affordable meals, understand how diet relates to oral health and increase knowledge around general oral health messages.
Sessions involve oral health discussion on topics such as the importance of oral health, brushing and tooth decay. Participants cook a nutritious meal followed by an activity covering topics such as the Eatwell Guide, hidden sugars and healthy snacks & drinks. The group then eat together with informal conversation around food, nutrition and oral health as well as sharing cost of living tips.
We provide ingredients and resources for participants to take home to consolidate their cooking skills and enhance their learning. Resources include leaflets on sugar, the Eatwell Guide, label reading, LINKnet oral health flyers and any additional relevant signposting and health promotion information. Children receive oral health packs containing toothbrushes, toothpastes, floss, water bottles and puzzle books.
Further signposting to support services includes: Cash First, energy support, income maximisation, additional food/equipment and support for carers.
“I love how you do a bit of prepping food, cooking then learn about oral hygiene and how it affects the body not only your teeth. It has been a great class meeting new people and sharing food.” Eni
Participants and supporting staff undertake our REHIS training courses (Food Hygiene, Food and Health and Eating Well for Older People). These courses allow us to enhance skills and confidence around food and to focus in greater depth on relevant areas of nutrition and health.
To further support and expand on prevention and early intervention strategies, we run highly popular Weaning and Fussy Eating sessions. These provide families and health professionals with up-to-date information on weaning best-practice and strategies for tackling fussy eating. Oral health is a key component, via discussions around low sugar foods, encouraging breastfeeding, appropriate hydration, tooth brushing and registering with a dentist.
LINKnet deliver 2-hour oral health awareness workshops and sessions to various organisations and groups, channelling key messages to the participants, building staff capacity, registering people at dental practices, and promoting participation in our prospective “Train the Trainer” programme.
Feedback from families show:
- 91% – more aware of the importance of eating healthily
- 79% – more able to cook healthy meals from scratch
- 79% – eating more daily portions of fruit & vegetables
- 91% – improved understanding of the link between food/drink and oral health
- 82% – practicing good oral health & nutrition recommendations at home
- 74% – more likely to visit their dentist
- 90% – more aware of the importance of oral health care.
“Great to involve the kids directly and from an early stage so healthy living will hopefully become a lifelong achievement for them.” Carol-Ann
Blog written by Jo Howie, Edinburgh Community Food and Ahmed Bagaber, LINKnet.
Edinburgh Community Food and LINKnet are finalists in the VHS 2023 Annual Poster Competition. View the poster entry here.