Background In 2006, the initial collaboration between the University of British Columbia, Canada, and Makerere University, Uganda, Africa, began with a pediatric dental health project initiated by students enrolled in the third year of dentistry at Makerere University and first- and second-year medical students at the University of British Columbia and the Pediatrics Department. The purpose of this study is to identify the challenges experienced in adapting a successful pediatric community health program onto an international platform.
Methods Through observation and discussion throughout the planning and initiation of the collaborative international project many challenges were identified.
Results The concept of the project both in the actual intervention and the desire to improve children's oral health and influence the overall health of the community were ubiquitous in both initiatives. However, the implementation of this wish was very different. Challenges arose in identifying and procuring appropriate grants and project sponsors as well as finding team members to undertake the project. Logistical obstacles became apparent in accessing needed supplies in a developing country. Delivery of the health initiative at a community level was very challenging for the project; students faced a language barrier, a very different school system, and hundreds more children participating at one time than in any of the prior Canadian initiatives. More than 600 children from 4 rural Ugandan communities were enrolled in the project over a 1-month time period.
Conclusions Despite the challenges faced in initiating the international Ugandan-Canadian Paediatric Dental Health Collaboration, teams from both collaborating universities recognized that the ‘growing pains’ were well worth the extra effort. The capacity was built for community education and research for the Ugandans and the Canadians gained invaluable insight into health care and research priorities in a developing country. The children of Uganda able to participate in this international community health program will become the clear winners.
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