Australian Dental Association Initiative Teaches Kids About Oral Health and Nutrition

Dentistry Today
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In 2019, Australian Dental Association (ADA) Federal teamed up with SugarByHalf, a nonprofit independent organization helping Australians to live healthier lives by reducing their sugar intake and, in turn, sugar-related diseases to create two series of lessons through Cool Australia, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting teachers with free, high-quality teaching tools, resources, and professional development courses.

These lessons, which have been available since January 2020, incorporate oral health and nutrition into the mandatory learning requirements of the Australian and New Zealand curriculum. Even with brushfires and a pandemic dominating 2020 and leading to at-home learning for many Australian students, the ADA said, these lesson plans have been successful and should be continued.

Lessons include a year 9/10 science unit that uses the process of remineralization and demineralization to create a new spin on the standard acids and bases curriculum that is contextually relevant to students and their health. Also, a four-lesson math unit was based on using Nutrition Information Panels on food and beverage products to teach multiplication, division, and percentages for years 5 and 6.

SugarByHalf has developed numerous Cool Australia lessons, the ADA said, including eight in partnership with the ADA that have been very popular with educators. In April 2020, the ADA said, its lessons reached 39,600 students. As of August, the ADA and SugarByHalf Multiplication and Menus lesson was the highest performing SugarByHalf lesson, downloaded 630 times. Also, the math lessons account for three of the top five SugarByHalf lessons.

There are fewer downloads for the science lessons than the math lessons, but Cool Australia believes this may reflect on many schools’ inability to do practical science lessons while students are at home. The math lessons also are easier for teachers to adapt to home environments and provide a fantastic set of resources for students to easily use, leading to more downloads and traffic, the ADA said.

“The Australian Dental Association and SugarByHalf have been key partners in developing healthy eating and healthy lifestyle curriculum resources for teachers. The need for these resources is clear. They’re in high demand by teachers and parents during what has been the most difficult year of school in recent memory,” said Mark Drummond, head of education at Cool Australia.

“We’re very proud to be sharing this knowledge and expertise with teaching communities across Australia and beyond. The funding from the ADA allows us to give these lessons free to teachers, meaning that those in rural and remote communities, or in low socioeconomic areas, have the same access as anyone else. Together, we’re reducing inequality in education and helping our kids live healthy, active lives,” said Drummond.

Due to the success of these lessons, the ADA said it is teaming up with SugarByHalf again to create more lessons for Australian children to improve their knowledge of sugar, nutrition, and oral health. Early childhood age groups will form the target for these lessons, as children four years old and younger are in a period where the foundations for their later health and well-being are established, the ADA said.

During this period, the ADA said, children acquire a vast range of skills and behaviors through their family, social, and school environment. Providing this information during this key period of learning can hopefully lead to improvements in future oral health, the ADA added. Further, the ADA said, the Cool Australia lessons are just one part of its strategy and ongoing work to improve the oral health of the Australian community.

The lessons are freely accessible from Cool Australia.

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