In hopes of delivering quality oral healthcare to vulnerable communities with special need patients, Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU), Taiwan-based Chung Shan Medical University, the Valenzuela City Government, and alumni partners among other stakeholders sealed a memorandum anew.
The signing ceremony for the Memorandum of Cooperation for Oral Health Services Network with Special Need Patients was the highlight in the concluded International Dental Conference on New Southbound Special Need Patient Oral Care on Tuesday, 18 July 2023 at the Lecture Hall, RISE Tower.
Gracing the event were Dr. Caroline Marian Enriquez, OLFU University President; Chia Tze Kao, CSMU Director; Dr. Arturo De Leon, Dean of OLFU’s College of Dentistry; Mayor WES Gatchalian, City of Valenzuela; and Marthony Basco, City Health Officer, among others.
Alumni partners including Dr. Ronald Allan Soco of Aftersmiles Dental Clinic, Dr. Ryane Dale Espiritu of Dental Spirit Dental Center and Dr. Arjoy Sierra of Smile Pod Center also appeared at the signing event.
In opening the confab, President Enriquez averred, “All our efforts will always be for the students, always for the stakeholders,” as she acknowledged the distinguished guests that morning. The University executive also emphasized the importance of collaborating with government, international partners, and alumni in achieving notable milestones.
On the other hand, Director Kao expressed the goal to establish a stronger mutual understanding with OLFU, through the memorandum, in delivering inclusive oral healthcare in both Taiwan and the Philippines.
The cooperation also seeks to widen its network in the region and eventually expand its influence through international conferences, added Kao.
Speaking on behalf of Mayor WES, City Health Officer Marthony Basco summed up the key contributors in driving the goals of the memorandum. “We need caring partners. We need partners who are updated. We need strategies that are innovative. We need services that can reach down to the people and [be] acceptable.
“We need to get together so that we can achieve what a family achieves— taking care of each other, watching each other’s path and moving forward in unison,” echoed Basco.
Following the signing ceremony, the Taiwanese representatives led by Director Kao launched the conference by tackling the “Achievements and Objectives of the Project to Promote Oral Healthcare for People with Special Needs in Taiwan.”
In his talk, Kao shared with his audience the goal of their initiative to improve the oral health status in Taiwan which was also recognized by the Taiwan’s Ministry of Health. Since 2018, they have collaborated with the leading academic institutions in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and now, in the Philippines.
Prof. Ming Yu Lu supplemented Kao’s talk as she discussed “Minimally Invasive Treatment for Temporomandibular Disorders,” deducing specific approaches in their local studies.
To bring the discussion back to local perspective, an OLFU proponent in the person of Research Coordinator for the College of Dentistry Dr. Sharon Alvarez examined the “Current Status of Oral Healthcare in the Philippines.”
Noteworthy data suggested that “oral disease continues to be a serious public health problem” in the country.
In fact, “about 92.4 percent of Filipinos have tooth decay and 78 percent have gum diseases,” said Dr. Alvarez in citing data from the Department of Health (DOH).
Alvarez likewise stressed the “financial barriers” behind the relatively poor Filipino oral health status.
Targeting a vulnerable sector amid the national concern on oral healthcare for special need patients, OLFU Social Orientation Community Involvement Coordinator and faculty member Dr. Liel Ma. Theresa Plantig cited that, in a July 2023 Census of Individuals with Special Needs, about 1.44 million Filipinos or 1.57 percent of the population have a disability.
As a responsive effort, OLFU proudly flexed its existing programs to bridge the gap in oral health for special need patients in Valenzuela. This includes the deliberate addition of “Management of Patients with Special Needs” in OLFU’s Doctor of Dental Medicine Program since 2018, and duly complemented by partnership and collaborations.
Holistic approaches such as dental outreach projects, oral health education and awareness through visitation and individual assessment are also laid out to address the identified communities with special need individuals.
Finally, to cap off the intensive dialogue, Dr. De Leon expressed his gratitude to the Chung Shan Medical University for elaborating on what other initiatives a compassionate institution, such as OLFU, can deploy for the underserved sectors.