Chapter 2: Teaching Family and Friends In Your Community
Old people can remember when there were fewer problems with teeth and gums. Children’s teeth were stronger and adults kept their teeth longer.
Times are changing. Today there are more tooth and gum problems than ever before. In many countries, tooth decay and gum disease are two of the fastest growing health problems.
This unhealthy situation is getting worse, for two reasons: changes in the kind of food people now are eating, and not enough cleaning after they eat.
Many people do not understand that tooth and gum problems are caused by certain kinds of food, and poor cleaning of the teeth. In fact, some have a completely different belief.
Do not attack a belief because it is traditional. Many traditions are more healthy than ‘modern’ things. Often, instead of telling people that their belief is wrong, you can remind them of a different tradition that is healthy.
BE A GOOD EXAMPLE
Other people like to watch what you do before they try something different. First show members of your family and then they will be an example to others in your community. For example:
Encourage people to pass along what you have taught. Mothers can teach family and friends. Students can talk at home with brothers, sisters, and older family members.
If all learners become teachers, a simple message can begin in the health clinic or school and reach many more people at home.
FINDING THE BEST WAY TO TEACH
Deciding what to teach is important, but just as important is how to teach.
Learning cannot take place when you use words that people do not understand. They will learn something only when they see how it is related to their lives.
Remember this when you teach about eating good food and keeping teeth clean. Design your own health messages, but be ready to change them if people are not understanding or accepting what you say.
Here are five suggestions for teaching well.
1. Learn First From the People
Get involved in your community’s activities. Learn about people’s problems, and then offer to help solve them. People will listen to you when they know that you care about them and want to help.
Sit and talk with people. Learn about their customs, traditions and beliefs. Respect them.
Learn about their health habits. Improving health may require changing some habits and strengthening others.
Learn also about tooth decay and gum disease in your community.
Make people smile - then look into their mouths.
Find out how many children and adults are having problems with their teeth and gums. Do a survey such as the one on Reference pages - Surveys.
2. Build New Ideas Onto Old Ones
People find their own ways to stay healthy. Many traditions are good, helpful, and worth keeping. But some are not.
When you teach, start with what people already understand and are doing themselves. Then add new ideas.
This method of teaching is called ‘association of ideas’. It helps people to understand new ideas because they can compare them with what they already are doing.
In this way people can more easily accept, remember, and do what you suggest.
3. Keep Your Messages Short and Simple
Instead of partially teaching too many things, it is better to discuss a few things well. After learning what health problems the people feel are greatest, decide what information will help them solve these problems. Then think of how to share the information. Try to:
Knowing where to teach is sometimes as important as how you teach. Instead of asking people to come to a class you have organized, go to them. Look for ways to fit into their way of living. You both will gain from the experience. They will ask more questions, and you will learn how to work with people to solve problems.
5. Teach Something People Can Do Right Away
It is good to tell a mother to keep her child’s teeth clean, but it is better to show her how to do it. She will remember how if she actually watches you clean her child’s teeth.
An even better way for a mother to learn is to let her clean her child’s teeth while you watch. A person discovers something for herself when she does it herself.
Pick out a child and clean his teeth yourself. Let his mother watch.
Use a soft brush (or for a baby, a clean cloth). Gently but quickly brush or wipe his teeth. Do the best you can even if he cries.
If mothers make this into a habit, the child will expect to have his teeth cleaned and will soon cooperate - just the way he does to have lice removed from his hair.
Now let each mother clean her own child’s teeth. Teach her to clean on top and on both sides of every tooth.
Ask her to do the same at home each day. At the next clinic, look at the children’s teeth and see how well the mothers are doing. Give further help when needed. Always praise and encourage those who are doing well.
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