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Studying Preparing

Developing a successful community education program

Feb. 16, 2021
Have you thought about expanding your career by conducting community education programs? Here's what you can do to get started and involved.

By Carolyn Breen, EdD, RDH, CDA, RDA
Dental assistants play an important role in promoting the health and well-being of the public. Besides providing direct patient care, many of us participate in community service activities that include oral health education to diverse groups. In preparing to present to the public, you should use the basic principles of program development to formulate an effective lesson. If you’re thinking about presenting a community service program, this brief overview will help you prepare. If you’re a seasoned presenter, this will review the process and refresh concepts to enhance your skills.

There are many components to a good community service presentation. The need for the program should be established, a description of the program developed, and the target population clearly identified. The group may be narrowly defined to include fourth grade children, high school students, or senior citizens. To gain perspective regarding current and future issues affecting the health of the population, I recommend reviewing “Healthy People 2020,” and the framework for 2030 to help you. This will facilitate presentation content to ensure that appropriate principles of oral health are included. You can then select the topics for each intended group.  

What are your objectives?

Goals and objectives are critical for a quality program. Determine what will be taught, the overall intent of the presentation, and what participants must do to meet the goals. Learning objectives are the knowledge or skills participants should have following the lesson. You should make up a list of support materials, such as audio-visual aids, PowerPoint presentations, printed materials to distribute, and dental products to be given to participants. The techniques and procedures could include role plays, brainstorming, lecture, film, discussion, and games. It’s important to relay the information and conduct the scheduled activities without having to rush, and to leave time for participant engagement and questions. It’s also a good idea to select an assessment mechanism to measure program outcomes.  

Objectives should be clearly stated and begin with a verb. Statements often describe the condition and the action, such as, “After watching the film, participants will be able to list at least three reasons for …” or, “Upon completion of the lesson, the participant will be able to discuss the components of …” Professional behavioral objectives include three components that address conditions, intended outcome, and performance criteria. Objectives help determine the success of the program in meeting intended outcomes. An additional assessment for the presenter is to determine if someone with a dental background could teach the session without help or explanation to successfully replicate the session. 

You should always develop a contingency plan that addresses unexpected interruptions or barriers, such as audio-visual equipment failure, the guest speaker not showing, more participants than space, or an outdoor activity affected by bad weather. The alternate plan provides the opportunity to implement auxiliary strategies so that the activity is similar to the planned session.

By employing these basic strategies to develop and implement a quality educational presentation in the community, you will fulfill another vital role as a dental assistant. With the assurance that you’re well prepared, you’ll have the confidence to carry out your program and help others toward better oral health. An added benefit is this will serve to expand your scope of skills as an oral health professional. Your contributions in preparing an event and enhancing community wellness will be fulfilling and may lead to more opportunities for you as a dental assistant!