Hasilo ("smiley" in Nepali) Nepal is a program focused on fighting child malnutrition through oral health care services. The project is based on a program established in El Salvador by Dr. Karen Sokal-Gutierrez, a professor at the UCB-UCSF Joint Medical Program. Observing that many of the malnourished El Salvadorian children had decayed teeth, and hearing the mothers’ explanations that their children were not eating properly or playing due to severe mouth pain, Dr. Sokal-Gutierrez began investigating the possible link between oral health and malnutrition. Working with dentists, community health workers and volunteers, she created an oral health and nutrition program for children from 6 months to 6 years of age.
The program focuses on preventing tooth decay and malnutrition by educating families about good nutrition, providing toothbrushes and toothpaste, applying fluoride varnish to children’s teeth, and referring children with severe tooth decay to local dentists for treatment. The project has been very successful in improving the mothers’ knowledge about nutrition and oral health, and reducing tooth decay, mouth pain and malnutrition in the children.
It addresses an immediate need for oral care in rural areas. Malnutrition is a severe problem in the region and making people aware that simple steps in oral care might help save lives is something that no one would have told them so far.