Australia-PNG Collaboration: 2024 School Dental Program Launched with PNG Patrons While Prime Ministers Anthony Albanese and James Marape honored the friendship between Australia and Papua New Guinea along the Kokoda trail, Mrs. Rachael Marape, wife of PNG’s Prime Minister, joined YWAM Medical Ships – Australia & PNG at Sevese Morea Elementary and Primary School in Port Moresby where she helped launch the 2024 dental program.  Mrs. Marape, Patron for YWAM MS, said the program is helping to meet a critical need.

“Over 80% of the students YWAM MS have assessed have tooth decay. The combination of treatment and education is helping to address the immediate need for care and prevention for
the future.  “I’m proud of this program, and hope to see its expansion to more schools and regions across our country,” says Mrs Marape.

Equipped with three dental chairs and sterilization facilities, the dental semi-trailer is prepared to deliver high-quality dental care services to students. The YWAM Dental Trailer is set to visit seven schools throughout the year, at the invitation of NCD Governor, Honourable Powes Parkop, who welcomed YWAM MS to operate the dental trailer in Port Moresby schools, and
with the support of many key stakeholders.

“In the pilot program last year, the YWAM team delivered over 2,500 dental treatments to our young people, while helping to strengthen the existing health system,” says Mr. Charles Abel, who serves as PNG Co-Patron alongside Mrs. Marape. “I’m pleased to be serving as Patron to help see a real change in the oral health care services in our nation.”  The Dental Trailer will deliver examinations and treatment to students including restorations, extractions, cleanings, and fluoride treatments. Additionally, students will benefit from interactive oral health education sessions. Each student will receive a Colgate Bright Smiles Bright Futures
pack containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, and educational materials to promote good oral hygiene practices.  Mr. Ken Mulligan OBE, Managing Director of YWAM MS, said their team is eager to continue
school engagement in Port Moresby this year after seeing over 1,200 students in 2023.

“It is wonderful to have the dental trailer back in schools,” said Mr Mulligan. “We currently have a great team of volunteers from seven different nations, including 12 from Papua New Guinea, who are eager to serve the students. Our goal is to expand the program and collaborate with stakeholders to engage more local dentists, meeting the critical dental needs of the nation.”

Contributors who have made the YWAM School Dental Program a success include the National Capital District Commission (NCDC), NCD Provincial Health Authority, NCD Education Services Department of Education, Henry Schein, Colgate-Palmolive, Sir Brian Bell Foundation, Ela Motors, Mills Dental, Ok Tedi, Air Niugini, AEDERS Dental Equipment Maintenance, and EmoTrans, whose contributions have made the YWAM School Dental Program a success.  For more information about YWAM Medical Ships and its outreach programs, please visit or contact

Oral Health in Papua New Guinea – Quick Facts
● The World Health Organization (WHO) states that ‘oral health is a key indicator of overall
health, well-being, and quality of life.’
● Poor oral health significantly affects children’s nutritional intake and consequently their
general health, growth, and development.
● Childhood oral diseases, if untreated, can lead to irreversible damage, pain,
disfigurement, more serious general health problems, lost school time, low self-esteem
and poor quality of life.
● PNG has the highest rate of cancer of the lip and oral cavity in the world. This is strongly
linked to the high prevalence of betel nut chewing.
● Betel nut chewing often starts very young and is more widespread than drinking alcohol
or smoking tobacco. One study found that the average age at which children tried betel nut
was 11.7 years.
● Many oral conditions, diseases, or disorders are preventable through school-based
efforts. The school provides an excellent setting for delivering oral health services for
● Per the World Health Organization, in 2019, there were only 62 dentists in Papua New
Guinea. Another study stated that there were only 35 dental therapists (dental
professionals who primarily treat children) in the nation.
6 Crocombe, Leonard & Siddiqi, Mahmood & Khan, Shahrukh & Bettiol, Silvana. (2019). Dental education and care
in Papua New Guinea.
5 WHO Oral Health Promotion: An Essential Element of a Health-Promoting School, 2003
4 Chen, Gene, et al. “The Effectiveness of School Educating Program for Betel Quid Chewing: A Pilot Study in Papua
New Guinea.” Journal of the Chinese Medical Association, vol. 81, no. 4, 2018, pp. 352–357.,
3 World Cancer Research Fund. Mouth, pharynx & larynx cancer statistics
( Published 2018. Accessed 12
October, 2021
2 WHO Oral Health Promotion: An Essential Element of a Health-Promoting School, 2003
1 Arora, A., Khattri, S., Ismail, N., Kumbargere Nagraj, S., & Eachempati, P. (2019). School dental screening
programs for oral health. Cochrane Database Of Systematic Reviews. doi: 10.1002/14651858.cd012595.pub3