According to updated figures released by Israel’s National Insurance Institute (NII) in October 2010, Jerusalem was the most underprivileged city in the nation in 2009, with 33.7 percent of families living below the poverty line, compared to 20.5 percent of families nationwide. In addition, 56.5 percent of the city’s children are classified as poor, exceeding the figure listed for any other region included in the report by at least nine percentage points. While the incidence of poverty among Israel’s immigrant communities continued to stabilize, it still stood at 17.4 percent.
The situation is particularly severe among Ethiopian families. High rates of unemployment and poverty – with 65 percent of Ethiopian children in Israel officially classified as poor – exacerbate the many issues affecting members of this community as they acclimatize to a totally new culture.
HCS operates two centers, one located in the Bukharan Quarter of Jerusalem and the second in the downtown district with a total of eight dental chairs. A team of 13 dentists (all highly skilled, experienced, and licensed by the Israel Ministry of Health), 3 hygienists, 1 technician and 8 dental assistants treat thousands of patients each month. Of these, nearly one-third (including children, the elderly, new immigrants, and mental health patients) receive significant subsidies.
The Ethiopian Teen Dental Care Program is implemented in full collaboration with the Municipality of Jerusalem’s Department for Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption. The patients, who include junior and high school students, soldiers, and National Service volunteers, are referred by municipal social workers. The social workers distribute signed, numbered vouchers to particularly needy families in their caseload.
Every program participant undergoes a comprehensive examination and X-rays, after which the attending dentist formulates an individualized treatment plan that covers all indicated interventions. In addition, the staff instructs the youngsters in good oral hygiene habits. Each patient is entered into the HCS database for routine check-ups. In certain cases, benefits are extended to other family members, as HCS tries to find funding to pay for treatments for parents and siblings.
The most valid means of assessing the overall success and effectiveness of HCS programs is to solicit information from patients and their families, who are periodically asked to complete a survey regarding their experience at the clinic. To ease the transition for patients, many of whom have rarely, if ever, visited the dentist and are understandably anxious, the clinic has developed new forms that provide incoming patients with an explanation of the benefits of their participation in the program. The administrative staff contacts each and every patient to schedule follow-up appointments to complete the planned treatment as well as subsequent check-ups.
Internally, the program’s supervisory dentist reviews each patient card and treatment plan to ensure that all diagnostic examinations and interventions are implemented at the highest standard. External evaluation is provided by the Israel Ministry of Health, which certifies and supervises the HCS clinics. Furthermore, the Hadassah School of Community Dentistry, and the Dental Department at the Ministry of Health monitor the clinics through periodic on-site visits.
The number of teens who can benefit from The Ethiopian Teen Dental Program is directly related to the amount of available funds secured. HCS is seeking deep sponsorship to provide vital dental treatment to Ethiopian youths, at an average of cost of $1400 per child. Your support would enable HCS to provide dental services to some of the most impoverished children in Israel.