Kia Waikato and Bay Of Plenty Magics midcourter Courtney Tairi takes selfies with students from Fairfield Intermediate School.
Last year nearly 1200 children in the Waikato needed surgery under general anaesthetic to remove or fill decayed teeth.
Waikato District Health Board community oral health manager Diane Pevreal said dentists in the district spend large amounts of time removing teeth from children who are suffering from rampant decay and infection.
“Unfortunately more than 40 per cent of under 5’s in the Waikato region have experienced dental disease,” she said.
“Some as young as two years old have their teeth removed because of the severity of their conditions.”
The alarming statistics have prompted Waikato District Health Board to ramp up its promotion of free children and youth dental services with the appointment of a local ambassador.
Yesterday Kia Waikato and Bay of Plenty Magic midcourter Courtney Tairi became the face of community oral health for children and youth in the Waikato.
Tairi believes in a healthy and active lifestyle and is determined to help bring that message to young ones. Growing up in Sydney and originally making her debut for the Sydney Swifts, Tairi used her public position to connect with Australia’s indigenous children around healthy living.
“It was a really great opportunity there, but I am so excited to be part of this campaign,” she said.
Tairi will encourage children and youth, tamariki, mokopuna, rangatahi and their whanau to start each day with healthy teeth and value a healthy smile for life.
“I am from here, I have so many nieces and nephews in the Waikato, if I can just plant a seed in some their minds then I will be happy,” she said.
Pevreal said having Courtney promoting oral health is invaluable.
“She is fit, young and dynamic. Courtney is an aspirational role model and we all can learn something from her.”
To start the campaign Tiari of Ngati Koroki Kahukura descendants was welcomed with a powhiri.
She said the welcome was really moving and a great opportunity for her to meet staff that work in the community.
After which she wasted no time and headed out to Fairfield Primary School to present at assembly.
In front of 500 children Courtney spoke about her career as an athlete before answering questions about her life and her health. She wrapped up by having a spot quiz with the students on important things to do when taking care of their teeth.
Her last stop of the day was to the district’s largest community oral health centre where she dropped in on some children getting their yearly check-up.
“I was so impressed with the centre, it is a great facility and I wish I had something like that growing up,” said Tairi.
In the coming weeks Tairi will be seen promoting oral health services on a billboard, posters and fliers throughout schools as well as social media campaigns.
The DHB provides free oral health services to 63,000 eligible children ranging from 0-17 years living in the region.