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Mouth Matters - improving oral health for offenders


The third annual ‘Mouth Matters,’ educational event took place on 22 November at Westport, with delegates and presenters from health and social care organisations. 

Mouth Matters is a national oral health initiative aimed at promoting oral health improvement for Offenders, supported by the oral health improvement team (OHIT), within the Priority Groups workstream in the Dental Directorate.  

The event showcased innovation and collaborative working and a common theme of the day was the value of Health Coaching and how this can provide the prison community with the tools to support health behaviour change. 

Denise Downie, University of Dundee, presented on the evaluation of the People in Prison Health Coaching for Scotland (Pep-Scot) pilot. Pep-Scot provides the first example of Health Coaching to be delivered in Scottish prisons. It uses coaching theory to enhance cognitive and psychosocial skills, self-esteem, self-efficacy and behaviour change. The coaching focused on oral health improvement with goal setting, problem solving, positive affirmation and mindfulness.  

The evaluation results are inspiring: 

  • Participants described improved communications with peers and family 

  • Attending the Pep-Scot course led to an increase in attendance at other courses 

  • Two participants from the first cohort have completed and passed the second level of coaching and hope to access further levels  

Other presentations included: 

  • NHS Lothian’s work to empower practitioners to develop ‘An overall approach to improving Health and Wellbeing,’ for all those involved in the prison community. As an example, alcohol brief interventions and signposting for smoking cessation are both included in the oral health interventions delivered by NHS Health Improvement Teams. 

  • NHS Forth Valley health promotion staff presented an example of training prisoners to become ‘Peer Mentors' in Oral Health Promotion. In addition, they also link in with life skills classes, Family Hubs, health and wellbeing sessions, as well as Recovery Cafes, to embed Oral Health within General Health Promotion. 

Trish Gray, Specialist Lead, commented on the day: 

"Oral health was defined as one of the key areas for health improvement, outlined in the first joint health improvement framework, Better Health, Better lives for Offenders (2012). Since then NHS boards have been working collaboratively with the Scottish Prison Service, as well as third sector organisations to embed oral health within general health promotion. 

"It has been a successful day and momentum is building for health and social care practitioners to work more effectively together. Flexible practice is key to responding to the complex health needs of offenders." 

Jose Marshall, Assistant Director for Priority Groups also commented: 

"There are some excellent examples of partnership working and the intention is to build on this success in 2018 and beyond". 

The Mouth Matters Guide for Trainers is designed to support health professionals, prison staff and support workers meet the specific needs of offender populations in Scotland. Its overall purpose is to raise awareness of key factors that affect oral health and provide brief interventions tailored to offenders’ complex health needs. 

The Guide can be downloaded here