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Columbia dentists to improve oral health in sub-Saharan Africa

NEW YORK, June 15, 2007 A new initiative from Columbia University Medical Center will be the first to target chronic oral health problems in sub-Saharan Africa, where the vast majority of chronic diseases are left undetected and untreated. The initiative is the result of an anonymous $1.5 million gift to support the Millennium Villages, which aims to fight extreme poverty and related challenges such as disease, hunger and lack of access to water and sanitation though scientifically sound and sustainable interventions. A third of the gift will be devoted to supporting the oral health program.

Chronic diseases will soon become the leading cause of health problems in the developing world, and oral health conditions are one of the most common chronic disorders, according to the World Health Organization. Initial Columbia research in the village of Koraro, Ethiopia, found that more than half of the population complained of oral pain. The generous donation will fund the first extensive initiative, led by Columbias College of Dental Medicine, to directly target oral health problems in sub-Saharan Africa with a sustainable prevention and treatment program.

Oral health is important to total health, so its essential that efforts to improve the lives of impoverished communities include a dental component, said Ira Lamster, DDS, dean of the College of Dental Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. The faculty and students of Columbias College of Dental Medicine are committed to addressing the global epidemic of chronic oral health problems through treatment and prevention programs.

There is currently no access to dental care whatsoever in the remote villages of the world, said Steven Syrop, DDS, associate clinical professor of dentistry at the College of Dental Medicine, who is leading the dental component of the Millennium Villages. There are only 48 dentists in the entire country of Ethiopia, and most are in the capital, Addis Ababa.
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Contact: Craig LeMoult
cel2113@columbia.edu
212-305-0820
Columbia University Medical Center
15-Jun-2007


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