Inside Dentistry
January 2012
Volume 8, Issue 1

Public–Private Partnership to Enhance Oral Health in Tanzania

Project is a quintessential example of “Doing Well By Doing Good.”

It is amazing what well-intentioned and motivated organizations and individuals can accomplish by working together in public–private partnerships. With the ultimate goal of partnering to improve the overall state and quality of Tanzania’s oral healthcare, each sector had an essential role to play. Private industry provided the resources, training, and supplies; government served as the agent of change; and a non-profit organization contributed the committed staff, local and specialized expertise to provide the “glue” to make the whole effort come together.

“In Tanzania, government leaders are working with private-sector companies and non-profit organizations to achieve sustainability in oral healthcare,” said Dr. Marion Bergman, an expert in oral healthcare provision. “While getting there has, at times, been a delicate journey, we all understand the importance of working together to reach our shared goals.”

The state of oral health in Tanzania, and in East Africa more broadly, has been historically poor. According to the FDI World Dental Association, as of 2007, there were only 450 dentists serving the entire nation (then approximately 39 million people), and more than 65% of young people were living with dental caries.

The U.S.-based non-profit organization, Miracle Corners of the World (MCW), has been helping to organize short-term dental outreach programs in urban and rural areas in Tanzania since 2001. Determined to have a sustainable impact on the country, MCW embarked on a joint project with the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS) School of Dentistry to improve oral healthcare across the nation of Tanzania.

This new initiative was launched in response to a “call to action” from Tanzania’s President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, who announced his goal of improving oral healthcare in the country at an event organized by MCW in New York in 2007. Following this appeal, MCW initiated discussions with representatives from the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare on the need to upgrade the MUHAS Dental School, Tanzania’s only dental school and one of very few in all of East Africa.

From these discussions, MCW gained a clear understanding of how to partner with Tanzania to reach its oral healthcare goals. MCW turned to its own network of private-sector companies specializing in the oral healthcare arena to see if they were interested in helping upgrade the dental clinic.

A New Public–Private Partnership for Oral Health

Dr. Bergman, who is also the director of Health Care Projects for MCW, visited MUHAS during the summer of 2007 with John Spencer, CEO of Oregon-based Dental Components International (DCI), and his daughter, Amy Spencer, DCI’s vice president. After touring the facility and speaking to the Dean and other faculty members, it was immediately clear that most of the existing equipment was either out of date or beyond repair.

When Dr. Bergman and the Spencers returned to the United States, they began sharing their experience in Tanzania with other dental equipment and supply companies. These discussions led to a commitment between MCW, Henry Schein, Inc., Midmark, and DCI to work together with MUHAS and the Government of Tanzania to upgrade the MUHAS dental clinic.

MCW and MUHAS signed a memorandum of understanding in September 2008, and the upgrade began with “donations in-kind” in the form of equipment and supplies, along with technical support, valued at $2 million. President Kikwete officially opened the newly renovated clinic on November 2, 2009.

“MCW is committed to improving Tanzania’s oral healthcare system by bringing public- and private-sector partners together to leverage their collective resources and expertise,” said Dr. Bergman. “We have a shared vision to become a regional center of excellence that provides dental appliances and prosthetics Tanzania and its neighbors. This project is a necessary step in that direction.”

Over time, the partnership broadened to include additional dental equipment manufacturers and distributors. Dr. Anne Eiting Klamar, CEO of Midmark, and Amy Spencer, also become more and more engaged with MCW and joined the organization’s Board of Directors and Board of Advisors, respectively.

Taking the Partnership to a New Level

In October 2010, MCW and MUHAS signed a second memorandum of understanding—this time to completely refurbish the school’s dental laboratory, which had been functioning with equipment bought in the 1960s. To achieve this goal, MCW once again partnered with Henry Schein through Henry Schein Cares, the Company’s global corporate social responsibility program. Henry Schein served as a key donor and facilitator for the involvement of industry partners in the upgrade of the MUHAS laboratory, as it had done previously in the initiative to upgrade the school’s dental clinic.

Norman Weinstock, chairman of Henry Schein’s Zahn Dental Division, visited MUHAS to conduct a needs assessment for the school’s dental laboratory. Together with Dr. Bergman, Mr. Weinstock assisted in identifying the products and equipment that would be needed to equip a new dental laboratory.

When the team returned to the United States, Mr. Weinstock gave his “needs list” to William VanVort of Henry Schein’s Zahn Dental. Mr. VanVort then became the lead for working with the Company’s supplier partners to help fill the needs of the school. In a short time, Henry Schein and MCW secured the participation of more than 30 national and international dental laboratory manufacturers and distribution companies, each of whom made donations of products or equipment to the new laboratory.

“Through our public–private partnership model,” said Stanley M. Bergman, chairman and CEO of Henry Schein, “we were able to harness our own core competencies—such as our relationships with our valued supplier partners and customers as well as the expertise of our own Team Schein Members—to support MCWs initiative to enhance oral healthcare in Tanzania through the upgrade of MUHAS’ facilities. The success of this project underscores the powerful impact that partners can have when each of us contributes the skills and resources for which we are best suited and we capitalize on our collective strength.”

Mr. VanVort traveled to Tanzania in February 2011 together with Dr. Bergman, Dr. Caswell Evans (a dentist), and Yvonne Noel (a business consultant to MCW) to assist with the unpacking of the donated laboratory equipment and supplies, valued at more than $400,000, and the installation of the equipment. MUHAS delivered a newly painted, electrified, and air-conditioned laboratory, outfitted by new benches built by Tanzanian craftspeople designed by Henry Schein’s Norman Weinstock.

At the end of the trip, President Kikwete invited the team of volunteers to his private residence to thank them for their efforts and to acknowledge the significant contribution this initiative would have in improving the state of oral health for Tanzania.

“I came away with an appreciation of the level of dental care that is available to us in the United States. The dental advancements that we have access to are far superior than those in many other countries, and this trip made me realize just how fortunate we really are,” said Mr. Van Vort. “This venture gave me a sense of satisfaction: our efforts will have a major impact on the dental care that will be provided in Tanzania to individuals who truly need it. I am proud to be part of this endeavor and the opportunity I had to give back to society.”

Training a New Generation of Technicians

All of the public- and private-sector partners involved in the project understood that to properly use and maintain the new dental laboratory, training was necessary. It just so happened that right after the team returned to the United States, Rita Acquafredda, vice president and general manager of Zahn Dental, was speaking to Matt Winstead, vice president of Oral Arts, Inc., a customer of Henry Schein’s based in Huntsville, Alabama, and Mr. Winstead mentioned that he was traveling to Tanzania. Ms. Acquafredda told Mr. Winstead about the MCW project in Tanzania, and the need to train the laboratory’s technicians. Eager to participate, Mr. Winstead offered to train two of the laboratory’s technicians, Ricardo Sabas and Sospeter Kanaku, in Huntsville at Oral Arts in the spring of 2011.

Mr. Sabas and Mr. Kanaku spent six weeks living in dormitories at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and training with the technicians at Oral Arts, learning to do everything from flexible partial design to making a crown using Myerson’s Duracetal Resin. They learned to do partial facings using indirect composites, model and die fabrication, denture set-up technique, and alloy castings as well. The two Tanzanian laboratory technicians were there during the devastating tornadoes in late April. The Oral Arts laboratory was without power for four days, and Mr. Sabas, Mr. Kanaku, and Mr. Winstead traveled to nearby neighborhoods to assist with the clean-up efforts. Mr. Kanaku recounted, “It was amazing to see how the community came together to help each other during a crisis.”

The 200 employees at Oral Arts say that they gained as much from the experience of hosting the Tanzanian laboratory technicians as Mr. Sabas and Mr. Kanaku did. As Oral Arts’ largest foray into corporate social responsibility, Mr. Winstead explained, “It has been a true honor for Oral Arts to be involved in this project. We collectively feel as though our efforts have contributed to improving the state of dentistry in the country of Tanzania and the quality of treatment that patients receive. It was a great opportunity for us to give back to society in this way, and the experience helped our employees really appreciate the quality of techniques and treatment that we have available to patients in the United States.”

Mr. Kanaku also reflected on the experience. “We really appreciate everything that Oral Arts, Henry Schein, and MCW have done for us,” he said. “We learned everything we need to know about how to operate all of our new equipment, and now we will be able to return home to Tanzania and transfer this knowledge to our colleagues—truly bringing a new age of dentistry to Tanzania. This is an experience that we will never forget, and through this project, we will be able to make sure that many people in Tanzania have better lives.”

A Model for the Region

MUHAS, with its new clinic and dental laboratory and highly trained technicians, now serves as a flagship graduate program for the training of dentists in East Africa. It was the partnership between MCW, the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, MUHAS, Henry Schein, and other private industry partners that made this possible.

“MCW approached our initiative to upgrade MUHAS Dental School as we do every other program that we participate in,” said Dr. Bergman. “We look to empower the local community in order to ensure that our programs have a lasting, sustainable impact on the community.”

“The complete technology and equipment upgrade of MUHAS’s clinic and laboratory, coupled with the excellent training that the technicians received,” continued Dr. Bergman, “will have a lasting legacy in enhancing the state of oral healthcare in Tanzania, and indeed the entire region.”

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