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Westminster Council’s tooth fairy won’t improve teeth!

02 February, 2018

• TWO key principles of public health are: people will listen more if the person passing on public health messages looks and behaves like themselves; and the message should be passed on in a way that invites the audience to think for themselves about what they can do to engage in a healthier lifestyle instead of in a preachy “you must do this” way.

Westminster Council’s “tooth fairy” video fails spectacularly in both ways (Council cites ‘cultural barriers’ to explain poor dental health, January 26).

Presumably, the councillors involved thought it would be great to have the main protagonist be an Asian-looking boy named Ravi who plays football and scores goals (while the goalkeeper is a white girl who helplessly lets all the goals in).

What they gave less thought to is how it would feel to Asian children watching the video when it turns out that Ravi is ignorant, “doesn’t listen” and needs to be repeatedly told what to do by the white characters – the tooth fairy who tells him off every time he eats or drinks: “Ravi, I’m warning you!” and when Ravi finally gets a toothache shouts out “Told you!” and then the white dentist, conclusively depicting a world where every person who has correct information and advice is white and everyone who is ignorant and requires information is brown.

This video will do nothing to improve children’s teeth and will only exacerbate racial and gender stereotypes.

There are good programmes that work with families to improve children’s oral health, which are funded by public health, such as the communities champions programmes where local people are trained to pass on health messages to their own communities in a non-patronising and engaging way. A much better use of resources.

NAFSIKA BUTLER-THALASSIS
Maida Vale

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