Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tricky Teenage Subjects: Effective Adolescent Health Education

Health education is an absolutely vital factor in long-term health, as well as the health of future generations. Educating children about health can be as simple as teaching them about basic hygiene, such as the washing of hands after going to the toilet or how to brush one’s teeth effectively. However, some health education involves more complex subjects, such as drug abuse or HIV; topics which need especial attention when dealing with older children and young adolescents. These health risks are among the biggest threats facing our youth, and school health programmes are one of the most effective ways to positively impact on long-term public health goals, according to the World Health Organisation. 


Because of breakthroughs in treatment options, HIV and AIDS are no longer in every headline, unlike only a few short years ago. While this can make it harder to impress upon students how serious the impact of the virus can be, it is nonetheless essential to convey the message effectively. Despite the fact that many associate the virus with intravenous drug use and homosexual intercourse – and while these are risk factors in transmission of HIV – 88.2% of transmission cases in 2011-2012 were via heterosexual intercourse. Nearly 200,00 HIV-related deaths were reported in 2011-2012, and more than 120,000 new cases of infection were recorded. Education about safe sexual practices, the relationship between HIV transmission and drug use, the availability of health services such as HIV testing and free condoms is vital to protect teenagers against this disease. 

Drug and Alcohol Abuse

For many teenagers, drug abuse is an easy trap to fall into. Many children grow up seeing various types of substance abuse in their communities, and have not been educated sufficiently about the dangers of drugs, including alcohol and tobacco. The easy availability of cheap “poppers” like aerosol inhalants, and the lax attitude of some retailers towards selling alcohol and tobacco to minors, make the dangers of substance abuse all the more prevalent and damaging. According to the World Health Organisation, alcohol is responsible for approximately 2.5 million deaths every year, which is nearly 4% of deaths worldwide. In India, alcohol-related deaths are on the rise, with 5,478 deaths caused by alcohol in 2012, 21% more than the 4547 cases in 2011. Traffic accidents are a primary cause of alcohol-related deaths, along with liver and brain complications. Toxic or contaminated home-made alcohol is also responsible for deaths from poisoning. Drug abuse is also highly prevalent; according to the World Health Organisation, there are as many as a million known heroin addicts in India, with an estimated further four million who are not registered in treatment programmes. Heroin, cannabis, and Indian-produced pharmaceutical drugs are the most commonly abused drugs. Although teenagers can be inclined to think of experimenting with substances as fun and exciting, it is important to impress upon them not only the dangers of substance abuse, but also to teach them how to recognize the signs of substance abuse in themselves and their peers, and how to seek help.

Sexual Safety

Sexual Safety extends much further than worrying about HIV and AIDS, and includes the risks of other sexually transmitted infections, as well as the risks of teen pregnancy. India, where many girls are married before the age of 19, has a very high rate of teenage pregnancy, which results in a loss of education for women, as well as physical health risks. Adolescent girls under the age of 16 who fall pregnant are four times as likely to die than women in their twenties, while the infant mortality rates of teenage pregnancies are approximately 50% higher than the rates of older women, according to the World Health Organisation. While the cultural aspect of young marriage is not something to be addressed in a health class, the health risks of unintended or young pregnancy are, and educating both young women and men about reproductive health is one of the most effective ways to begin to turn the tide. Additionally, the problem of sexual violence is an important one, and while girls are often taught to try to avoid situations in which they could encounter rape and other forms of sexual violence, it is important to impress upon adolescent boys, too, that these crimes hold severe consequences for them. 

Trinity Care Foundation is a Non Governmental Organization focusing on Craniofacial Deformities, School Health and Outreach Programs in Karnataka, India.We require your Support to implement these community Health Programs in Government Schools and Colleges in Ramanagara, Kolar and Bangalore Rural Districts in Karnataka State, India.  
Kindly write to us : support@trinitycarefoundation.org   | http://trinitycarefoundation.org/ |  

Oral health

Oral health 

Fact sheet - April 2012 

Key facts

  • Worldwide, 60–90% of school children and nearly 100% of adults have dental cavities.
  • Dental cavities can be prevented by maintaining a constant low level of fluoride in the oral cavity.
  • Severe periodontal (gum) disease, which may result in tooth loss, is found in 15–20% of middle-aged (35-44 years) adults.
  • Globally, about 30% of people aged 65–74 have no natural teeth.
  • Oral disease in children and adults is higher among poor and disadvantaged population groups.
  • Risk factors for oral diseases include an unhealthy diet, tobacco use, harmful alcohol use and poor oral hygiene, and social determinants. 
Oral health is essential to general health and quality of life. It is a state of being free from mouth and facial pain, oral and throat cancer, oral infection and sores, periodontal (gum) disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, and other diseases and disorders that limit an individual’s capacity in biting, chewing, smiling, speaking, and psycho-social well being.

Oral diseases and conditions

The most common oral diseases are dental cavities, periodontal (gum) disease, oral cancer, oral infectious diseases, trauma from injuries, and hereditary lesions.

Dental cavities

Worldwide, 60–90% of school children and nearly 100% of adults have dental cavities, often leading to pain and discomfort. 

Periodontal disease

Severe periodontal (gum) disease, which may result in tooth loss, is found in 15–20% of middle-aged (35-44 years) adults.

Tooth loss

Dental cavities and periodontal disease are major causes of tooth loss. Complete loss of natural teeth is widespread and particularly affects older people. Globally, about 30% of people aged 65–74 have no natural teeth.

Oral cancer

The incidence of oral cancer ranges from one to 10 cases per 100 000 people in most countries. The prevalence of oral cancer is relatively higher in men, in older people, and among people of low education and low income. Tobacco and alcohol are major causal factors.

Fungal, bacterial or viral infections in HIV

Almost half (40–50%) of people who are HIV-positive have oral fungal, bacterial or viral infections. These often occur early in the course of HIV infection.

Oro-dental trauma

Across the world, 16-40% of children in the age range 6 to 12 years old are affected by dental trauma due to unsafe playgrounds, unsafe schools, road accidents, or violence.


Noma is a gangrenous lesion that affects young children living in extreme poverty primarily in Africa and Asia. Lesions are severe gingival disease followed by necrosis (premature death of cells in living tissue) of lips and chin. Many children affected by noma suffer from other infections such as measles and HIV. Without any treatment, about 90% of these children die.

Cleft lip and palate

Birth defects such as cleft lip and palate occur in about one per 500–700 of all births. This rate varies substantially across different ethnic groups and geographical areas.

Common causes

Risk factors for oral diseases include an unhealthy diet, tobacco use and harmful alcohol use. These are also risk factors for the four leading chronic diseases – cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes – and oral diseases are often linked to chronic disease. Poor oral hygiene is also a risk factor for oral disease.
The prevalence of oral disease varies by geographical region, and availability and accessibility of oral health services. Social determinants in oral health are also very strong. The prevalence of oral diseases is increasing in low- and middle-income countries, and in all countries, the oral disease burden is significantly higher among poor and disadvantaged population groups.

Prevention and treatment

The burden of oral diseases and other chronic diseases can be decreased simultaneously by addressing common risk factors. These include:
  • decreasing sugar intake and maintaining a well-balanced nutritional intake to prevent tooth decay and premature tooth loss;
  • consuming fruit and vegetables that can protect against oral cancer;
  • stopping tobacco use and decreasing alcohol consumption to reduce the risk of oral cancers, periodontal disease and tooth loss;
  • ensuring proper oral hygiene;
  • using protective sports and motor vehicle equipment to reduce the risk of facial injuries; and
  • safe physical environments.
Dental cavities can be prevented by maintaining a constant low level of fluoride in the oral cavity. Fluoride can be obtained from fluoridated drinking water, salt, milk and toothpaste, as well as from professionally-applied fluoride or mouth rinse. Long-term exposure to an optimal level of fluoride results in fewer dental cavities in both children and adults.
Most oral diseases and conditions require professional dental care, however, due to limited availability or inaccessibility, the use of oral health services is markedly low among older people, people living in rural areas, and people with low income and education. Oral health care coverage is low in low- and middle- income countries.
Traditional curative dental care is a significant economic burden for many high-income countries, where 5–10% of public health expenditure relates to oral health. In low- and middle-income countries, public oral health programmes are rare. The high cost of dental treatment can be avoided by effective prevention and health promotion measures.

WHO response

Public health solutions for oral diseases are most effective when they are integrated with those for other chronic diseases and with national public health programmes. The WHO Global Oral Health Programme aligns its work with the strategy of chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Emphasis is put on developing global policies in oral health promotion and oral disease prevention, including:
  • building oral health policies towards effective control of risks to oral health;
  • stimulating development and implementation of community-based projects for oral health promotion and prevention of oral diseases, with a focus on disadvantaged and poor population groups;
  • encouraging national health authorities to implement effective fluoride programmes for the prevention of dental caries;
  • advocacy for a common risk factor approach to simultaneously prevent oral and other chronic diseases; and
  • providing technical support to countries to strengthen their oral health systems and integrate oral health into public health.

For more information contact:
WHO Media centre
Telephone: +41 22 791 2222
E-mail: mediainquiries@who.int