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It’s smiles all round as UHNM Charity-funded project scoops prestigious national award

A UHNM Charity-funded oral health project has been named as the English Football League (EFL) Championship’s Community Project of the Season.

The ‘Keep Stoke Smiling’ campaign, delivered by the Stoke City Community Trust on behalf of UHNM Charity in partnership with University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM), utilises the power of football to deliver diet and dental health messaging to 11,000 primary school children across the Potteries.

In total 74 schools have engaged with the project, receiving advice in bespoke sessions delivered by UHNM Consultant Orthodontist Dr Karen Juggins.

Dr Juggins said: “We started the Keep Stoke Smiling project in 2020 as a new, innovative way of delivering oral health care messages to children and young adults in the area. We were bored and tired of the same old NHS standard posters, so what we really wanted was something that would engage, inspire and drive young people in our area to really think about how important it is to look after their teeth.”

“It turned out to be a huge success, much better than what we imagined, and the schools were really pleased with what we had to offer. It’s thanks to UHNM Charity for funding the project, and Stoke City Community Trust for helping to deliver the project, that we’re able to raise our oral health care to the next level. It’s UHNM Charity’s vision to see this as a preventative strategy, rather than a treatment. What we’re trying to do with these sessions is stop local children getting dental decay and needing the intervention of UHNM’s Orthodontics team because they’re much more able to look after their own teeth.”

Figures show that Stoke-on-Trent currently sits near the bottom of the UK league table for dental health in children, with a quarter of five-year-olds suffering some form of tooth decay. This costs the NHS £36m per year.

Lisa Thomson, Director of Communications and Charity at UHNM said: “We’re so pleased to have been working with the Stoke City Community Trust on such an amazing project that has brought local people together to make a real difference to our children. We have a real problem with oral health in our local area, and by working in partnership on this campaign to address this and make a difference.”

As part of the Keep Stoke Smiling project, toothbrushes were provided to children that didn’t previously own one, together with advice on how to use them correctly.

In addition, each of the schools engaged in the project pledged to be fizzy drink free because of the initiative.

Elaine Watson, a year four teacher at Burnwood Primary School said: “The children were really engaged in the session, and left school buzzing. It offered us an easy way into difficult conversations, and now some of the parents have registered at a dentist for their children’s first visit. This is a brilliant outcome for us all.”

The judging panel were unanimous in their votes for EFL Community Project of the Season which recognises the most innovative and impactful projects.

The achievements of the Keep Stoke Smiling Campaign will be marked during an event hosted in Parliament on 17 April, with one overall winner for each category to be revealed at the star-studded EFL Awards in London on 23 April.

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