Why did Help A Child Smile decide to help people in the Bhalswa slum district of Delhi? And why India of all the places in the world?
Delhi is the city where our grandmother lived and worked to help children in the slums through her pediatric practice, and where she eventually died from oral cancer. India leads the world in oral cancer cases and oral cancer ranks among the top three cancers in the country. It is predicted that India's incidence of cancer will increase from 1 million in 2018 to more than 1.7 million in 2035. Oral cancer carries higher mortality rates than other routine cancers because in the initial stages it is painless and mostly detected after late stage progression and metastasis of the disease.
Delhi is among the top ten most populous cities in the world and the Bhalswa slum district houses almost 20% of its population. People live in makeshift huts with no clean drinking water, running electricity, proper toilets or sanitation facilities. Children never go to school and most work as laborers in nearby factories or as ragpickers. Families use datun sticks to brush their teeth and roadside quack dentistry abounds. Families are completely unaware of dental disease prevention and the risk factors that lead to oral cancer - excessive alcohol consumption, beedi and cigarette smoking, and tobacco and betel nut chewing.
These are the families that need our help and educational efforts. Through social workers who understand the dynamics of the area, we reach out to tell families about oral health care and we distribute dental supplies and oral cancer education flyers. Help A Child Smile has connected families to All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Maulana Azad Institute of Dental Sciences where they are able to receive free treatment.
Take a look - dental work on a road in Delhi