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Peter Dunne

16 May, 2011

Address at Launch of Naenae Community Dental Clinic

Tēnā koutou, Kia Orana, Talofa and Pacific greetings to you all, and good morning

I am delighted to be here today to celebrate the commitment and effort of all involved in improving the oral health of our children and teenagers in this community.

But before I talk about this new clinic and the Government and Hutt Valley DHB’s plans to improve oral health, I wish to acknowledge the work that has brought us here today.

It has been a long time in the planning.

This day has been made possible by the leadership of the Hutt Valley DHB, the staff of its community dental service, and most importantly, the support and input from this community.

I especially acknowledge the support of Board of Trustees and the principal of Naenae Intermediate – in particular Mr Paul Alcock, Mr Graeme Ross and Mr Steve Black – who have supported the location of this new clinic here from the beginning.

I acknowledge the teachers and staff of this school who have worked through the inconvenience of construction on site and are enthusiastic supporters of health and education working together.

And thank you to the students who have participated so enthusiastically in this opening ceremony.

The opening of this clinic is one aspect of the Government’s nationwide programme to improve oral health services for our children and teenagers.

The Government has committed nearly $116 million of capital funding along with over $30 million each year in additional operating funding for DHBs to re-invest in delivering better children’s and teenagers’ oral health services.

We are beginning to see new fixed clinics and mobile facilities all around the country.

Which brings me back to the clinic we are opening here today.

This Bee Healthy Naenae Clinic is the second and largest of Hutt Valley DHB’s new fixed-site dental clinics that will be up and running in the Hutt Valley by 2012.

This clinic and the other new ones will be supported by 11 new mobile dental units.

The mobile clinics will visit schools and provide a range of services including examinations, x-rays, preventive care and other treatment as required.

We will see nine of these 11 mobile clinics on our roads by the end of this year.

This clinic here in Naenae will serve 7,500 children from Naenae Intermediate and surrounding schools such as Avalon Primary School and Naenae College, and preschools such as the Avalon Kindergarten and Awhina Te Kahui Nohinohi Te Kohanga Reo.

It will become the one single clinic in Naenae that all our children can access year round as and when they need dental care.

This will be a relief for parents as you do not need to track down your community’s roving dental therapists anymore.

For the dental therapists and dental assistants, these new clinics mean they will be working in more spacious facilities, with modern equipment, with better staff support and more time to spend with our children on prevention and oral health education.

Today is not only about opening this new clinic.

Today, we also celebrate the launch of Hutt Valley DHB’s Bee Healthy Regional Dental Service.

Over the coming months, we will see more of BarnaBee – our local oral health champion – introducing a number of his friends. BarnaBee and friends will be talking about health tips and messages to encourage our children into a healthy lifestyle that gives them the best possible start in life.

I am told that over half of the children in the Hutt Valley currently enrolled with the oral health service are decay free.

While this is a good start, I am sure you would all agree that we would like this percentage to be much higher.

For its part, the Hutt Valley DHB will be increasing enrolment of its pre-school children in its free oral health service, and encouraging greater use of services by our teenagers.

The DHB wants to reach out to more children and families, particularly among Māori and Pacific families and whānau.

We also must acknowledge, today, the important part each one of us has in supporting the oral health of the children and teenagers under our care. It is about leadership and setting a positive example for our young people to follow.

To achieve this, it is important that Hutt Valley parents, caregivers, families and whānau play their part in supporting children to develop good oral health care habits.

The good news is that dental decay is a largely preventable disease. Toothache and gum disease do not need to be a normal part of our lives.

For some of us here, we grew up in the days where we would usually get our teeth drilled and filled at the dental clinic.

But this need not be the case for our children and our children’s children.

From today onwards, we, the adults here, must give our children the knowledge and support they need to protect their teeth for life.

As adults, we all know what we should do to protect our teeth, such as brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing, and cutting back on sugary foods and fizzy drinks that can cause dental decay.

Our young people need to see us doing these things so that they will as well.

So we adults need to show far better example than we often do.

I was horrified to discover recently that about a third of adults do not brush their teeth twice a day.

That is simply not good enough.

We cannot expect our young people to develop good oral health habits, while that level of neglect continues.

So, it is time for adults to face up to their own responsibilities, if they expect to be a positive influence on their children.

You are also encouraged to attend appointments with your children here at this Naenae clinic, and to bring along your other children as well.

Furthermore, this community is fortunate to live in an area where water is fluoridated.

Water fluoridation helps reduce and prevent tooth decay.

The ratepayers among us need to ensure that the local council continues this important public health measure.

It is only by involving parents, caregivers, families and whānau in the care that our dental therapists deliver, that we can then, together as a community, really begin to improve outcomes for whole families and whānau, for both young and old, and for our future generation of New Zealanders.

Thank you. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou kātoa.

  • Peter Dunne
  • Health