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News Bulletin : ADA News Bulletin June 2011
37 JUNE 20 11 Funded by the Australian Government Get involved. Call 1300 MYRAHC or apply online at rahc.com.au Be part of the effort to improve Indigenous oral health We need Dental Health Professionals to fill short-term paid placements in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory for as little as three weeks. "It was all worth it, I felt incredibly valued and that I had made an important contribution to the oral health of the local children of Katherine. I have no doubt that this initiative will benefit the whole community in the long run". Amanda, Dental Therapist and RAHC participant. Volunteering in dentistry committee report There are many ways of providing pro bono services in dentistry and all of them stem from the humanitarian impulse to help those in need. This may involve free treatment for individuals or categories of patients within a dentist's own practice or in some form of 'outreach' service within Australia or abroad. It may mean oral health promotion in schools or aged-care facilities. The diverse ways in which all members of the oral health 'team' can and do help are praiseworthy and are practical demonstrations of the caring dimension of the profession. This brief paper will limit itself to the concept of volunteer work outside of one's own practice because it involves more dislocation, organisation and challenge to step into the unknown. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE VOLUNTEERING Regardless of the inner source of the impulse to help others, there are common principles which cover aid projects in general and dental ones in particular. The first of these is the Hippocratic injunction to do no harm either from direct action or from the law of unintended consequences. The latter is the more difficult to protect against and it is why projects and their volunteers should do some homework before picking up a handpiece or a set of forceps. Existing projects should have done so, but even new volunteers should learn about the area and people they are about to visit. Good background sources are Lonely Planet guide books, SBS World Guide, and even, or especially, the CIA fact book found on https://www.cia.gov/library/ publications/the-world-fact-book . If a volunteer can become an amateur anthropologist and learn a little about the culture of the region -- in Australia or anywhere else -- then so much the better. Many projects have information booklets or websites from which much of the background information can be gathered and this should include work regulations and how to comply, and official recognition of the project by local health authorities. National registration has simplified working interstate within Australia but many overseas countries either do not have mandatory registration or else have no system of short-term registration. It is the duty of projects not individual volunteers to ensure that their workforce complies with any legal requirements. Volunteer projects fill gaps in dental services to communities but there may be local service providers doing the best they can in difficult circumstances. No matter how well qualified, or more usually how unqualified, a local worker may be, it is important to reach out to them and be inclusive, after all they are living in the community all year and it's better to try to raise their standards than to supplant them briefly and make them feel inferior. The worst thing that a project can do is to denigrate a local worker and to create a sense of dependency on the periodic visits of the project. This can be done in an unthinking way and is one of the
ADA News Bulletin May 2011
ADA News Bulletin July 2011