ABUJA, NOVEMBER 28, 2016 – The Federal Ministry of Health on Monday announced its partnership with Unilever Nigeria Plc to promote good dental care and enhance oral hygiene education in the country.
Prof. Isaac Adewole, the Minister of Health, made this known in Abuja while briefing newsmen as part of the activities to commemorate 6th edition of the National Oral Health Week.
The minister also signed a memorandum of understanding with Unilever Nigeria Ltd. on behalf of the ministry.
Adewole said that the company had accepted to undertake the initiative to provide facilities to 10 million school children across the country through the Pepsodent School Oral Health Initiative, in collaboration with the ministry.
He said that the partnership had a far-reaching effect on Nigerians to promote proper habits for oral hygiene and encourage schools and families to play a role in their children’s oral health.
He said that the partnerships would promote quality assurance, patient satisfaction and universal coverage to all citizens.
According to him, oral diseases are among the most common Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and it may affect people throughout their lifetime, causing pain, disfigurement, social isolation, distress and even death.
He said that oral diseases share risk factors with the leading NCDs, including tobacco use, harmful alcohol consumption and unhealthy diets high in sugar, “all of which are increasing in Nigeria’’.
The minister said that available studies suggested that there was low oral health service utilisation among adult Nigerians, while socio-demographic variables influenced oral health utilisation habits and oral hygiene behaviour among adult Nigerians.
He said that older persons resident in the northern zones of the country and less educated persons displayed poorer oral hygiene practices.
“The HIV⁄ AIDS pandemic has also contributed to the high burden of oral disease.
“There are over three million HIV-infected persons in Nigeria, 40 per cent of whom present with oral lesions,’’ he said.
The minister said that there had been an increased incidence of Noma cases in Nigeria owing to the rippling effects of the insurgence in the North-Eastern part of the country.
He said that malnutrition, poor oral hygiene and lack of adequate immunisation had been implicated as the major predisposing factors.
He called for the reinforcement of legislation aimed at preventing road traffic crashes and the total enforcement of existing laws to reduce orofacial injuries among children and adults.
Adewole said that the ministry had been working on the National Oral Health Promotion Programme aimed at integrating oral health into primary healthcare via a rapid oral health intervention programme.
Commenting on the initiative, Mr George Umoh, the Brand Manager Pepsodent, Unilever Nigeria Plc said that the company was committed to doing business in a sustainable way and as part of its sustainability agenda.
“we have committed to improving the lives of 10 million Nigerian children by the year 2020,’’ he said.
He said that the MoU with the ministry and other stakeholders was to promote oral hygiene and education and the habit of brushing twice daily – morning and night.
Umoh said “it is a global best practice to prevent the prevalence of dental caries and other oral health diseases in Nigeria.’’
He said that since the launch of the Pepsodent Oral Health Schools programme in 2014, Unilever Nigeria had so far reached 2.5 million Nigerian children directly in over 3,500 public primary schools.
He said that the pupils were provided with products (toothpaste and toothbrushes) educational materials and a 21days oral hygiene programme.
“The teaching programme was to teach them how to imbibe the culture of brushing twice-daily using a fluoride containing toothpaste.
“We believe children are change agents. They have the will power to influence their parents, siblings and people around them to take their oral health seriously,” he said.