Urban Smiles and the Assisi Foundation Launch Project Choppers

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The Urban Smiles initiative at UTHSC has launched a new project to teach children to care for their teeth. Project Choppers is a fun coloring book that tells a story encouraging children to practice good habits in oral hygiene.

The Urban Smiles initiative at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center has launched a new project to teach children to care for their teeth. Project Choppers is a fun coloring book that tells a story encouraging children to practice good habits in oral hygiene. With 10,000 copies in print, Project Choppers is distributed free to children ages 6 to 9 through Urban Smiles, a mobile dental hygiene service for underserved youth in the area. Urban Smiles is administered by students and faculty in the Department of Dental Hygiene at the UT College of Allied Health Sciences. The service is offered at grade schools and youth service organizations. The coloring books are distributed during the dental visits. To establish Project Choppers, Urban Smiles partnered with the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, which funded the production of the material.

“The children are enjoying the books and we’re excited about the partnership between Urban Smiles and the Assisi Foundation,” said Noma Anderson, PhD, professor and dean of the UT College of Allied Health Sciences. “Both partners have missions that include caring for the needs of urban children. Through the gift of these books, we can enhance a child’s experience with oral hygiene and dental care.”

“The book is more than a toy to be distributed to children,” said Cassandra Holder-Ballard, RDH, MPA, EdD, dental hygiene instructor and director of undergraduate programs for the UT College of Allied Health Sciences. “Children should be guided through the process of the dental hygiene story in the book.”

The coloring books were created as a result of concerns about dental decay in children and the prevention of dental disease. Jan Young, executive director of the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, grew interested in the material and proceeded with funding its production. The material is educational, but also entertaining with large pictures, amusing dialogue, and questions that make children want to participate.

Currently, the coloring books are distributed to children at Urban Smiles sites which include: Shelby County Head Start programs, assigned elementary schools in the Memphis City Schools system, and Jubilee Schools — the branch of Catholic schools serving underrepresented minorities. Project Choppers is also available at the Children’s Museum of Memphis dental exhibit. Urban Smiles seeks to expand its service and Project Choppers to additional elementary schools and to pediatric clinics. If the project is effective, a series of coloring books may be considered.

About the Assisi Foundation of Memphis

The Assisi Foundation of Memphis is a private health legacy foundation created in 1994. Since its inception, the Assisi Foundation has provided more than $150,000,000 million in donations to qualified organizations and nonprofits in the Greater Memphis area. For more information, visit www.assisifoundation.org.