Problem Background: Lack of Awareness Among the Target Audience
The importance of oral hygiene cannot possibly be doubted, as it affects not only a patient’s digestive system, but also a range of other processes in the human body (Joseph & Shanila, 2014). However, due to poor economic and financial conditions, as well as a lack of awareness about the subject matter, certain members of the population fail to maintain oral health.
Research Question: Effects of Information Technologies on Raising Oral Health Awareness
Do the use of IT, in general, and social media and networking, in particular, help improve awareness rates among underserved members of the community with regard to the importance of oral health and the means of maintaining it?
Research Hypothesis: IT as a Tool for Promoting Healthy Behavior Among Learners
By applying IT tools, particularly, using social networks, it will be possible to promote the proper oral-hygiene-related habits to target members of the population and, therefore, improve the quality of their life. The use of IT tools, and especially those that contribute to an uninhibited and direct communication process, may encourage the learners to accept the necessary habits, as far as the basic principles of oral hygiene are concerned.
Discussion: Effects of Information Technology on Oral Hygiene
Locating Social Groups That Are Most Affected by the Issue
It is important to mention that people from poor economic and financial backgrounds are the focus of the current research. In fact, the concept of an underserved community does not necessarily imply that the members thereof suffer from financial problems or economics-related issues. Though financial concerns clearly contribute, to the greatest degree, to the creation of underserved areas, there are other factors that trigger the phenomenon. Although the concept of being underserved is strongly linked to the inability of the target population to access health care, the reasons for the lack of availability of services may differ. For instance, apart from poverty, the lack of healthcare awareness (e.g., due to poor education), race-, religion-, or language-related complexities, etc., can be viewed as the primary factors that determine the phenomenon (Neville, O’Dwyer, & Power, 2014).
Therefore, people from a poor social and economic background, immigrants, people with a poor command of English, people with a religious background that prevents them from accessing healthcare services or dentistry in the case in point, etc., will be considered in the paper.
Communication Enhancement in the Socially Challenging Environment
As seen from the description of the target audience provided above, the communication issue seems to be the root cause of the lack of awareness among target members of population and, therefore, poor oral hygiene rates. In other words, healthcare organizations must find a way to reach the areas that are, for some reason, unable to access the requisite information.
For this purpose, the use of social networks and other platforms for online communication can be viewed as offering opportunity. Indeed, access to social media is part and parcel of the lives of people nowadays. By using the identified tools, healthcare experts will be able to provide the target population with essential information about basic oral hygiene rules, as well as means of detecting dental problems, ways of contacting the corresponding healthcare facilities, etc. With the help of feedback forms, one will be able to keep in touch with the members of the community and offer extensive assistance to those who require urgent help (Paul et al., 2014). It is essential to keep in touch with underserved members of society, so that they are able to receive necessary information and gain new knowledge about the crucial steps to maintaining good oral hygiene (Dollhausen & Alke, 2014).
Considering Possible Ethical Issues: What May Go Wrong
It should be borne in mind that certain ethical issues may create obstacles to the successful implementation of the strategy. According to the current principles of ethics, healthcare strategies and programs must be based on the tenets of “autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice” (Grainger & Ozoliņš, 2015, p. 33). The identified principles are crucial when weighing a moral dilemma while tending to the needs of patients.
Ethical issues may occur when a patient’s decisions are likely to trigger negative health consequences. For instance, the patient’s refusal to take X-rays may pose a threat to their oral health and lead to a variety of dental issues, from caries to more complex diseases. Similarly, a refusal to undergo an expensive yet necessary dental surgery (e.g., a removal of wisdom teeth) may cost the patient their health and, therefore, require that the therapist should choose between preventing the patient from causing themselves harm, and providing them with freedom of choice. To resolve the specified issues, one should consider raising awareness regarding complex dental and oral-health-related dilemmas.
Conclusion: Problems to Be Addressed and Strategies to Be Adopted
Summary: Oral Hygiene as a Reason for Concern
There is a pressing need to reach out to the communities that are identified as underserved. It should be borne in mind, though, that the factors causing people to be deprived of oral health services are not restricted to poverty. Although financial or economic well-being clearly is a powerful indicator, other issues also affect the accessibility of healthcare resources and especially the related information for target members of population. For instance, language and cultural barriers, as well as a lack of education and the absence of state protection (e.g., in the case of an immigrant), may be considered the driving factors behind the problem of underserved community members (Zambrana et al., 2015).
Recommendations: Enhancing Communication via Modern IT Tools
Since financial issues and the physical distance between the underserved members of the community and oral healthcare facilities cannot be addressed directly, ways of overcoming the obstacles must be designed. Specifically, the use of IT tools, such as the design of social networks, in which communication between the underserved residents and healthcare experts may occur, should be discussed.
Although the issues related to dental care are often taken for granted by the representatives of underserved communities, the significance of oral care is not to be underrated. When spinning out of control, the related problems may affect a range of other systems of the patient’s body, therefore reducing the quality of their life and posing a serious threat to their life. Thus, it is imperative to raise awareness, stressing the significance of accessing oral health facilities and following oral health recommendations (Negi, Negi, & Pandey, 2011).
The process of communication enhancement may involve active use of contemporary communication tools. Specifically, the application of IT-related tools, as well as the design of networks by which oral health experts may provide consultations and the crucial pieces of information, should be viewed as an option. Online consultations, along with extensive information about the basic principles of oral hygiene, the means of detecting emergent threats such as caries, and the ways to address them (e.g., information about the local facilities in the vicinity of the target audience) must be included in the array of strategies for mitigating low oral hygiene rates among underserved community members (Kirkwood & Price, 2014).
Implications: EBP as the Foundation of the Future Strategy Assessment
The findings of the research to be conducted are likely to give a powerful impetus toward the further design of an outreach program for the people who do not have access to oral health services of the appropriate quality. The program will have to focus on the needs of target members of the population, identifying ways of providing them with the required information and the necessary services (Johansson & Östberg, 2015).
Furthermore, the use of EBP techniques must be viewed as a necessity. Unless the issues that the target patients face in the identified locations are explored closely, the problem will remain unresolved. Therefore, it will be crucial to study the underserved population carefully, so that the essential factors affecting the quality of services be evaluated and addressed correspondingly (Jain et al., 2012).
It is expected that an awareness campaign on a large scale should help manage the root causes of the problem. Furthermore, the program must include building trustworthy relationships with the participants; “Important characteristics of ideal mentorship include mutual respect, awareness of historical marginalization and barriers” (Zambrana et al., 2015, p. 65). Although mitigating the issue completely within a comparatively short time period is barely a possibility, providing the patients with easier access to the information they need about available oral health services is likely to be accomplished with the help of the outreach program. Therefore, it is essential to make sure that the IT tools for increasing awareness and enhancing communication should become an integral part of the program.
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