Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad said the government introduced the Orang Asli teeth icon programme earlier this year to educate the indigenous people about the need for proper dental care.
He said that about 21 Orang Asli teeth icon were trained and appointed under the programme in six different districts in Perak.
The minister said dental care awareness remained low in the Orang Asli community, based on records showing that just 46,898 among them have used his ministry’s dental health services that include static and mobile facilities.
The figure represented just 26.3 per cent from the entire Orang Asli population in the country, he said.
“Based on a local study conducted in 2001 among the Semai Orang Asli, they prefer to do self-treatment or refer to the traditional medicine specialists from their community or other influential people such as the village chief, when it comes to treating diseases, including oral issues.
“So by training these influential people on the oral health under the Orang Asli teeth icon programme, they could pass the oral health information and awareness to their people,” he said in his speech at the launch of the programme at Kampung Orang Asli Menderang 1 here.
The minister said the scheme is based on expectations that peer-to-peer efforts would be more effective in spreading awareness about the importance of dental health among Orang Asli communities.
In Perak, the icons selected were mostly village chiefs in Batang Padang, Muallim, Kampar, Kinta, Perak Tengah and Hilir Perak districts, he said.
The Orang Asli teeth icon programme is adapted from a larger scheme that features 500 such icons that come from various backgrounds, ranging from professionals to home-makers.
“Following the success, we believe the programme will also be effective among the Orang Asli community,” he said.