Dr. Mukesh Panwar always had an acute sense of service to the helpless. Studying in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, he was an active scout and also received an award from the President. Scouting instilled this deep sense of service in him. After finishing school, he went on to pursue Dentistry in college. It was during his time there that helped him in understanding the limitations of dental services. Brick and mortar setups restricted dentistry to just the urban spaces, thereby excluding the rural and the underprivileged population from receiving adequate dental health care. He regarded this imbalance as one of the main reasons why oral health was a major public health problem.
The answer to solve this imbalance showed itself into the light when during his tenure as a public health professional, with The World health organization and The Piramal Foundation, he experienced mobile healthcare units in rural areas. These units helped in extending the arm of medical sciences to the last mile of rural areas. This was a turning point for Dr. Panwar and gave rise to the idea of Smile Express.
Smile Express was conceived as a mobile dental services for people in the rural areas and in the periphery of the urban areas. Since its inception, Smile Express has diagnosed 635 patients and has treated 184 of them, on the spot. It has also engaged in creating awareness and sensitizing the population regarding tobacco by organizing counselling seminars and de-addiction camps. Currently, Smile express is also screening and treating over 300 people of all age groups every week from rural areas near Jaipur and in villages across Rajasthan.
The start-up also plans to collaborate with community-based organizations (CBOs) to reach out to the target beneficiaries. The camps would be conducted at various government and private institutions with a special focus on schools. It is estimated that Smile Express would need around INR 21 Lakhs in order to be launched and this amount is likely to be raised in the form of grant or investment. The fund would be utilized to set up mobile dental van on lease, meeting cost of operations, marketing and logistics and expansion of grass root delivery network. So far, they have conducted eight mobile dental camps in collaboration with dental colleges, which owned the mobile dental vans, and various CBOs.
With an immaculate outreach in the deepest rural pockets, Smile express has successfully registered their impact. It has shown that with a show of conviction and determination, Oral health problems can become a relic of the past and a shimmering smile across the face of rural India can indeed become a reality today.
KRITIKA VIDYARTHI | TOC
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