Well Connected is a registered charity which provides expert community engagement support for the dental curriculum. It also offers volunteering and other interesting community opportunities for students to be involved in.
Acting as a link or bridge, Well Connected works alongside organisations and projects to support positive lifestyle choices; promoting dental health and wellbeing. This partnership approach in turn enables Peninsula Dental School (PDS) students to engage directly with participants and service users in a unique and meaningful way.
‘Inter Professional Engagement’ modules undertaken by 1st and 2nd year students ensure all students have an awareness and understanding of common health risk factors and their impact on public health.
First year students visit community organisations, meeting a key worker in the organisation. They investigate the organisation’s aims and objectives to develop a broad understanding of health and wellbeing of the participants using community services. They are then required to submit a report on their findings and a reflective paper; this forms part of the summative assessment for all 1st year students.
Second year students devise and deliver an intervention project for a specific target group; this is achieved as a team, with the support and guidance from the Well Connected team and an academic tutor. The summative assessment includes producing a poster, writing a reflective paper on their experiences and delivering a group presentation at the symposium; whose audience is made up from other students, academic staff and an invited audience including an expert panel who assess each presentation.
The aim of these modules is to develop a range of skills and attributes such as:
- verbal and non-verbal communication skills
- team working
- ability to work with other health professionals
- develop a robust understanding of health in its broadest sense
- create an awareness of other agencies who support health improvement
- to be innovative and engaging.
The range of intervention projects include:
- oral cancer awareness for young people
- taking oral health messages to homeless people in Plymouth
- supporting recovering drug/alcohol users
- creating opportunities for children and parents to access dental treatments
- working alongside older people to encourage improved dental health
- supporting people with Sjogrens syndrome.
This is a unique approach in dental education and one which PDS is particularly proud; the Well Connected team has been nominated for several awards and has a proven track record of delivering innovative projects and activities. These have a direct impact on the local community and encourage and support people in the Plymouth area to access dental care services provided by Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise as well as by General Dental Practitioners.
- developing and supporting the fluoride varnish programme
- training ‘dental champions and buddies’ in Children’s Centres
- implementing supervised brushing sessions in early years settings such as Children’s’ and Sure Start Centres, schools, family intervention projects, community venues and others
- engaging directly with the local population to encourage attendance at Dental Education Facilities such as via information sessions, community open days, etc.
- delivering a range of workshops and activities with partners which encourage and promote improved dental well-being, for example, with parent support advisers in primary schools and information sessions with disadvantaged groups
- providing community-based, dental triage sessions for disadvantaged groups.
Working with community based organisations; Well Connected has built effective and responsive networks and partnerships in the private, public, community and voluntary sectors.
The impact includes:
- increasing knowledge and awareness for participants
- reducing negative barriers and perceptions that frequently surround accessing dental services
- increased awareness of the importance of a well-balanced diet
- reducing dental pain and anxiety for ‘at risk’ groups
- encouraging families to establish good oral hygiene habits
- helping children to brush effectively
- enabling and empowering people to make more informed choices about oral health.
Well Connected helps to ensure that PDS are able to respond to local needs, taking a flexible approach which has long lasting benefit for the health improvement of our region; as well as ensuring we graduate dental clinicians with skills for the 21st century.