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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Mental and oral health service provision to be harmonised

Story by Memory Chamisa

Zimbabwe’s health sector has moved in to harmonise the treatment of mental illnesses and provide oral health services, amid the realisation that most mental patients suffer from oral health complications.

Twenty mental and oral health professionals underwent training in Harare this Saturday, where a manual on mental and oral health was formulated to ensure local health providers adhere to international standards.

Trainer and renowned American dental consultant, Dr Julian Fisher commended the initiative by Zimbabwe in tackling the twin health challenges.

“What Zimbabwe is doing is very interesting bringing together both mental and oral health is very unique. Looking at community-based projects, involving the communities together with the government. Oral health is now part of the biggest sustainable agenda including mental health. In addressing those problems it’s very important. People with drug and substance abuse problems often have oral health challenges as a result of the drugs they take. And Zimbabwe has really done well with the programme in having the two solved that when they are doing the rehabilitation, mental analysis they also include the oral health aspect,” Dr Fisher said.

The facilitator of the programme, Oral Lung Axis Trust director, Dr Cleopatra Matanhire-Zihanzu noted the need for an increased interdisciplinary approach where oral health professionals work alongside mental health professionals.

“The project is titled the Oral Health for Mental Health programme. We found out that patients with mental and drug and substance abuse presented to our dental facilities in the public service with extreme oral health conditions which were also numerous. We did research among oral and mental health community and then the research showed that only 1.4 per cent confirmed had received some form of formal oral training. Then the recommendation that was given was that we should have formalised training, and secondly that we must have a training tool which is a manual that could guide and then build inter-professional collaboration between oral and mental health.

“So what we have done today is implement phase two of the project, that is to train in which we have trained 20 mental and oral health professionals coming from the four key provinces of mental health Institutions that serve in the public Service. Once we’re done, they will be going back to their workstations where they will also train their peers within their facilities then we are rolling out the programme so we are fortunate that on Monday will be having a training at Ingutsheni the first batch and on Tuesday we’re going to be having a dental outreach for the patients at Ingutsheni in collaboration with the Zimbabwe dental Association Matabeleland branch. So we are very much excited about it, because we’re partnering with the Bulawayo community, both health care and civic society with the support of corporates as well to make this happen,” said Dr Matanhire-Zihanzu.

Zimbabwe has committed itself to the fight against drug and substance abuse, with mental health facilities being capacitated to accommodate the overwhelming number of patients in need of admission services every single day.

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