There have been many questions about the dental charity Heart Your Smile (HYS). I have been asked why is an organisation needed to get more people to visit the dentist?
The vision from the outset at HYS was that improving engagement between the profession and the public would lead to increased trust and improvement of uptake of oral health messages and care at local level. Many organisations in this space concentrate on the messages themselves, but we felt the messages were well established, so to elicit behaviour change we decided to concentrate on breaking down barriers to the uptake of oral health messages.
Heart Your Smile (HYS) has 4 key goals.
These are to:
1. Change the public's perception of Dentistry
2. Increase attendance and uptake of care
3. Emphasise the dental team's position as trusted members of the local community
4. Restore positive morale in the profession
We went through a rigorous process with the charity commission. Our charitable objects are:
1. to promote and protect the physical and mental health of sufferers of [oral diseases] in [the UK] through the provision of financial assistance, support, education and practical advice.
2. to advance the education of the general public in all areas relating to oral health
All funds we raise go towards promoting our charitable objects. To advance the education of the general public in all areas relating to oral health is a very costly undertaking.
Our initial campaign was to seek out the professionals who already had the energy and interest to support their local communities through:
* oral health promotion
* general health and healthy living support and advice
* support in the community in schools, homes, local organisations etc, by giving their time and gaining their trust
We decided these behaviours could be packaged as the “9 habits” and are a positive way of raising the public's confidence in seeking timely dental care, by reducing anxiety, one of the biggest barriers.
Meanwhile, as these professionals were getting in touch, we needed time, funds and supporters to develop an online presence through which any team member in the profession could make a positive contribution in their community and share their work to create a ripple effect. We established a flat organisation and anyone was and still is welcome to join in and take on a workstream.
We also used this time to create mentoring resources and oral health promotion resources and the trustees wanted to get robust support from public health advisors for the resources we were producing before we announced them, so the whole process of getting to where we are now took 12 months.
The mentoring platform has been developed in conjunction with Fiona Ellwood, who has the level 7 postgraduate certificate in Mentoring from FGDP (UK). Our first group of 24 Mentors and Mentees start working together on 18th September.
Heart your Smile is committed to promote civic responsibility and good citizenship amongst members of the dental profession in a sustained campaign to achieve our objectives. We started off with trade stands and engagement online, we have launched innovation 360 to crowd source innovation and spread the message through local action, as well as pilot new methods of engagement and to roll out the best ideas. The first round of applications has closed and we are working with 14 teams to roll out their ideas.
We would love all dental teams as well as members from GDPUK to get involved and perhaps lead a workstream of their choice or apply to be mentors or mentees. The future of the dental profession is in our hands.