One of Sea Mercy's Floating Health Care Clinic's bringing care to the remote islands of Fiji
What's hiding behind a smile...
Fiji, Vanuatu, Tahiti, Palau, Tonga, and Samoa. Just hearing the names of those islands conjures up travel brochure images of a warm tropical sun setting in the distance over blue turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, palm trees leaning towards the ocean, and luxurious air conditioned hotels calling to your inner most desires. As real and appealing as those images may be, there is another calling in the South Pacific that few hear or know about. It's an urgent call for medical help from a forgotten people.
The South Pacific
The South Pacific consists of over 20,000 islands spread across 11 million square miles of ocean; with over 85% of the population living on less than 5% of those islands, the remaining population inhabits the thousands of smaller remote islands located hundreds of miles away. There are no roads, power lines, or phone systems to connect the smaller, less populated remote islands to the same services offered on the larger more populated primary islands. Sadly, these remote islands are left without even the most basic of dental care services.
Anounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
Dental Care Program
Dental caries (tooth decay) was uncommon in the South Pacific before European trading and migration expanded into the Region, changing their diet, food preparation and lifestyle. Where the primary islands have the dental infrastructure to consistently evaluate and treat tooth decay, the remote islanders have nothing. This poses a major public health problem in terms of pain, premature loss of teeth and even the risk of death due to infections.
Sea Mercy’s Dental Program provides the needed implementation and monitoring of a tooth decay control program. Although diet and lifestyles strategies are a part of Sea Mercy’s programs and important for long-term health needs, the implementation of proven modern preventative programs like the use of fluorides and ‘fissure sealants’ will help us to quickly transition from and endless focus on extractions, to restoration treatments and repair programs.
Below is a short video from Dave Carroll who traveled with Sea Mercy to film a documentary about diabetes and our program in the South Pacific.
The Solution - Floating Health Care Clinic's
In 2012, Sea Mercy (www.seamercy.org), a U.S. based non-profit organization, began the dream of operating a fleet of Floating Health Care Clinics (FHCC) vessels (large sailing catamarans) that brought free medical, dental and eye care services to the thousands of neglected remote islands scattered across the South Pacific. Working directly with Health Ministry of our island nation partners, our FHCC vessels were the answered prayer for an effective and consistent service delivery platform that could deliver the much-needed care to their vulnerable and at-risk outer islands, and provide a source for international health care professionals (volunteers) willing to assist them in serving their remote island citizens.
2013-2014 Program Results
With 11 island nations waiting and thousands of remote islands in need, we knew our task of bringing dental care to them would not be easy or accomplished quickly.
We began operations in 2013 with 1 FHCC vessel and 30 international health care volunteers. We visited and treated over 1,000 remote island citizens of the Kingdom of Tonga. In 2014, Sea Mercy added 2 additional FHCC vessels and over 75 international health care volunteers joined us in bringing health care to the remote islands of Fiji and Tonga. This year we are on target to evaluate and treat nearly 5,000 remote island citizens of these two nations.
2015 Dental Care Program
Our 2014 program revealed how desperate the dental needs are on the remote islands of the South Pacific. In response, Sea Mercy has created a Preventive Dentistry Program for these High-Risk Underserved Populations.
Although we have had incredible initial success, we have barely scratched the surface with regards to the percentage of remote islanders still in need of dental care evaluation and treatment.
Dr.'s Scott & Sarah Levison (DMD's) have taken on the design, implementation and leadership role for the Sea Mercy Dental Care Program in the South Pacific. Scott and Sarah have been on the front lines of dental missions work since 2004. As practicing dentists, they have always made time to serve those less fortunate (both locally and internationally). Most recently, Sarah returned from a 2-week rotation in Fiji with Sea Mercy.
With their deep knowledge and experience in the field of dentistry and with medical missions, they have developed a program that will help meet the unique and comprehensive dental needs of the remote islanders that Sea Mercy visits in 2015 and beyond.
- To enhance oral health promotion and disease prevention activities
- To provide remote populations with a point of entry into the dental health care system, and
- To identify effective interventions to suit the community needs, mobilize resources to implement the activities, and evaluate the outcome of these activities including methods to monitor progress toward a healthy remote island population
We Need Your Help
With the planned addition of two island nations and FHCC vessels in 2015, we will need to expand and secure the necessary dental care volunteers, surgical equipment, supplies and operational resources needed for the ongoing success of this program.
We are seeking your assistance in the following areas:
- Volunteer with us on a dental care rotation in 2015 (click on link)
- In-kind donations of dental care equipment and supplies (see list of needs at bottom of page and email us on how you can help)
- Financial support (use below contribution submission form to make a tax free donation to Sea Mercy)
Our goal is to raise the $65,000 needed to provide the ongoing Dental Care Program equipment, supplies and services to the remote islands of the South Pacific.
A little from a lot can make a huge difference. Please make a financial donation today to help us bring a smile back to these forgotten people.
Thank you for your support!