Global Health

Dental disease is the most prevalent condition worldwide, and developing health systems are evolving to meet the oral health needs of their populations through infrastructural changes and workforce development.

HSDM faculty and students in the Office of Global and Community Health have collaborated with organizations and governments worldwide to reduce the global burden of dental disease. Recent projects have taken members of the HSDM community to Ecuador, Haiti, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kuwait, Rwanda, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries, and led to increased teaching resources for global health within Harvard.

World Oral Health Day | March 20, 2021

A message from Jane Barrow, associate dean for Global and Community Health:

One year into the pandemic, we are all acutely aware of the shortcomings of our public health systems and the critical importance of robust, well-functioning systems. This past year also saw international health organizations recognize oral health as essential for overall health and wellness and the World Health Organization Executive Board call for inclusion of oral health in universal health coverage.


Our oral health professionals have served on the front lines of the battle with COVID and continue to work to protect their communities through ongoing COVID testing and vaccinations. They have embraced this new service to their communities along with their traditional engagement in providing oral health care, collaborating in the management of their patients’ chronic diseases, and identifying communicable diseases and cancers.


 A visit to your oral health professional is an important opportunity not only for caring for your oral health but also for insuring your personal health and that of your community. As we consider world oral health day, let us consider what it means to be healthy and how we can strengthen our health systems to insure that everyone has access to oral care, primary care and more. Our thoughts are with those who have been impacted by the pandemic and the health professionals caring for them. We wish everyone good health this World Oral Health Day.

Harvard Worldwide Week | October 2020

Enjoy HSDM's 2020 Worldwide Week recap of its ongoing global health projects!


Current Global Health Projects


The Harvard China Fund recently awarded HSDM with a $50,000 grant to hold a conference at the Harvard Shanghai Center entitled Improving Population Health through Oral Health in China: Strengthening the Oral Health Delivery System and Building Workforce Capacity through Innovative Strategies in Education, Care and Research. Associate Dean Jane Barrow of The Office of Global and Community Health collaborated with PI’s Drs. Sang Park (Dental Education) and Christine Riedy Murphy (Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology) on the submission. The conference was held in October of 2018. 
Shanghai Conference
Leadership from HSDM, as well as five universities in China and one in Taiwan, gathered to discuss the current dynamics of education, research, care delivery, and population health strategies related to oral health in China. Several opportunities for collaborations emerged from the discussions including:

    • New partnerships with Fudan and National Cheng Kung Universities to implement new dental schools
    •  A new partnership with Zhejiang University to collaborate on educational, research, and exchange programs
    • Expansion of existing partnerships with West China, Jiao Tong and Peking Universities

    HSDM committed to exploring how it can assist partner universities with specialized professional development for dental faculty pursuing a specialty track. All of the universities convening with HSDM would like to transition toward cutting-edge teaching methods with flipped classrooms and on-line learning.

    Costa Rica

    Last March, Kristin Sweeney, DMD20, Ryan Lisann, DMD20, and David Danesh, DMD20, traveled with Dr. Brittany Seymour to Costa Rica where they were immersed in a one-week extension course building on what they Costa Rica 2018learned in the classroom, co-developed by Brittany Seymour, DDS, MPH, and Carlos Faerron, MD, DMSc, of the Interamerican Center for Global Health. The class gives students a firsthand look at some of the most pressing challenges in global health, such as the effects of environmental degradation, migrations and changing demographics, and nutritional and epidemiological transitions. 

    Dr. Brittany Seymour traveled to Costa Rica in January to co-facilitate a faculty development workshop focusing on integrating global health experiential learning opportunities into curriculum. HSDM will send another group of students and faculty to Costa Rica this March and will lead a workshop titled “The Changing Role of the Dentist in a Globalized World: Implications for Education.”


    Yianni Ellenikiotis, DMD17, has been part of this ongoing research project where students partner with an Ecuadorian dental and public health school and reach out to mountainous communities and see children from 6 months to 15 years of age. They survey parents, screen for severe childhood caries, provide oral health and nutrition education, and apply fluoride varnish. The direct immersion into the Ecuadorian culture leads to a truly meaningful and enriching experience where students are able to learn from the people and communities they interact with on a daily basis.


    IndiaAlessandro Villa, DDS, PhD, MPH, has launched a program in India with the goal of enhancing the early detection, diagnosis, and survival outcomes of oral cancer in Viramgam, Gujarat. India currently has one of the highest rates of oral cavity cancers in the world, with over 75,000 new cases diagnosed annually, making it the second most common cancer in the country after breast cancer. HSDM alumni Lakshman Ramanna Prasad PD77, SPH78, is also collaborating on this project. Phase one of the project aims to increase the awareness and recognition of oral lesions, OPMDs, and oral cancer in this geographical region through a coordinated education campaign directed toward healthcare providers and the general public. Phase two focuses on developing and implementing strategies to reduce referral and diagnostic delays in patients suspected of having a diagnosis of oral cancer.

    The expected outcomes of this multifaceted project include the following:

    • Increase the confidence and consistency of healthcare workers in undertaking oral cancer examinations and in counseling their patients about risk factors and risk reduction
    • Improve the efficiency of referrals so that patients with OPMDs and oral cancer receive diagnosis and management at an earlier stage, with the intent of reducing overall morbidity and mortality



    Drs. Mary Tavares and Hend Alqaderi of the department Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology are collaborating on research in Kuwait entitled, “The Kuwait Healthy Lifestyle Study.” This is a longitudinal study focusing on data from over 8,000 Kuwaiti children across the six governorates of Kuwait. The study looks at correlation among sugar sweetened drinks, obesity, caries, and sleep patterns.


    MexicoMary Tavares, DMD, MPH, Steffany Chamut Villarreal, DDS, MPH, Jane Barrow, MS, Karen Sokal-Gutierrez. MD, MPH, and Brittany Seymour, DDS, MPH, traveled to Mexico twice this year to participate in discussions about integrating oral health into early childhood education. This partnership has also focused on nutrition programs and oral health policies in Mexico and Mexico City. Collaborators include:

    • David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies
    • El Poder Del Consumidor
    • National Institute of Public Health

    HSDM’s work with its partners in Mexico has also centered on research projects focusing on the link between dental health and non-communicable diseases. Representatives from El Poder del Consumidor visited HSDM to speak about efforts to enact a national soda tax and advance an evidence-based, comprehensive policy agenda to ensure healthy food environments and systems and to prevent obesity and undernutrition.


    RwandaHarvard School of Dental Medicine is involved in a unique program in global health dentistry collaborating with the University of Maryland School of Dentistry and the National University of Rwanda on an innovative project to develop a bachelor of dental surgery program in Rwanda—part of the extensive Rwanda Human Resources for Health Scale Up (HRH) Program.

    The HRH Program is a novel and potentially transformative health care workforce capacity-building initiative developed by the Government of Rwanda and funded by the US Government. The overarching aim of this eight-year program is to build a comprehensive, high-quality, and sustainable health care system in Rwanda by strengthening the health workforce education system and promoting the education and career development of the country's health workforce. To achieve this goal, the Government of Rwanda has convened a consortium of 23 US partner academic institutions (including Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Boston Children's Hospital) engaged in the areas of medicine, nursing and midwifery, dentistry, and public health. Each of the participating US-based institutions in this program is asked to recruit and deploy clinical faculty according to the school's identified specialty and sub-specialty areas of interest. The Rwanda HRH Program proposes a structured plan for the complete transition of health workforce education from the academic consortium to Rwandan faculty and health care personnel within eight years as a result of the projected increase in the number of health care professionals and a projected increase in government health-sector spending.

    In the fall of 2013, the new school welcomed its inaugural class into the five-year dental surgery degree program. The students spent their first two years of training with their medical school classmates before beginning dental training in the capital city of Kigali. At the end of 2018, the University of Rwanda graduated its first-ever class of dentists and several members of the HSDM community were present at the commencement exercises.

    Additionally, the University of Rwanda School of Dentistry began construction on a new teaching clinic, which will feature 17 chairs, newly renovated lab spaces and classrooms, improved internet connection, and areas for radiology, infection control, and patient records.

    For more information about this project, click here. 


    VietnamIn 2018, a team of HSDM faculty and DMSc candidates traveled to Vietnam to continue work on the Vietnam Health Advancement Initiative: Competency-based Dental Education, a new collaboration between Vietnam’s Ministry of Health, Ho Chi Minh City Medicine and Pharmacy School (UMP), and HSDM.  The team included Brittany Seymour, DDS, MPH, Jane Barrow, MS, Tien Ha-Ngoc Jiang, DMD14, MEd , Jarshen Lin, DDS, Donna Hackley, DMD, Hesham Alhazmi, BDS, MS, and Fahad Hegazi, BDS. The goal of this initiative is to strengthen and standardize the country’s dental education system, which currently uses a credit-based curriculum, rather than a competency-based curriculum. The team launched a six-month pilot program that began to lay the groundwork for the program. HSDM Faculty continue to provide support as UMP launches its new curriculum.

    Global Health Starter Kit

    The Harvard School of Dental Medicine Office of Global and Community Health is proud to announce the launch the Global Health Starter Kit, a competency-based global health ‘starter’ curriculum designed for dental educators and students. This new curriculum includes comprehensive materials for educators and instructors, as well as materials for students and those who are interested in self-guided learning. The program was pioneered by Dr. Brittany Seymour and the Global Oral Health Interest Group of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH), and received support from the Consortium of Universities for Global Health Dr. Thomas Hall Global Health Education Grant Program, The International College of Dentists USA Section Foundation, and the Harvard School of Dental Medicine Offices of Global and Community Health and Communications.

    Co-edited by Brittany Seymour, Janice Cho, and Jane Barrow,  and authored by a team of global health experts, the Global Health Starter Kit features five modules: “Global Trends”, “Global Goals”, “Back to Basics- Primary Care”, “Social Determinants and Risks”, and “Ethics and Sustainability.” The kit aims to provide practical support specifically for dental educators who are working toward unified competency-based standards and equipping the future generation of dental professionals with “starting” tools to address the tremendous burden of oral diseases worldwide and their consequences. This curriculum is free and available for anyone to use. Click here to access the Starter Kit!