Participatory Action Research for Positive Change

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The Healthy Teeth Challenge

In South Africa there are few dentists in the townships. Dental health is found to be poor in these areas, with a large number of children experiencing toothache and consequently not going to school. The Healthy Teeth Challenge was set up in order to address this issue and find solutions together with inhabitants of Mfuleni Township and other stakeholders.

Founder and challenge supervisor Alice Grasveld (read interview) won the first prize of the UVA alumni Awards 2017 with The Healthy Teeth Challenge. Furthermore, the Healthy Teeth Challenge inspired Alice Grasveld to start The Healthy Teeth Foundation in 2018, focusing on Participatory Action Research into oral health and education amongst children. See for example her latest project in Kenya: “A Community-based tooth decay prevention project“.

Challenge details

The 7Senses Challenge is an intensive 12-week program for students, post-graduates and professionals. In a multi-disciplinary, international team they perform Participatory Action Research in the field to boost community empowerment while at the same time work on their own personal and professional development.

Challenge name The Healthy Teeth Challenge
Start date March 9th 2017
Status Finished
Duration 9 weeks
Country South Africa
Coordinator Alice Grasveld
Number of participants 4
Number of local researchers 2

Each Challenge design starts from a community issue, addressed by its problem owners at location. As such, we make sure the Challenge is based on local demand rather than donor demand. Together with these local stakeholders, we design the Challenge in a way that fits the local context, from the problem framing up to methodology and concept definitions.

Problem Definition
Main Research Question
Sub Questions

Each Challenge delivers direct outcomes for the local community on the addressed issue: we can share how many people have been reached, what their perspective is on the current and desired situation and what final Community Action Plan (CAP) they have co-created and implemented. In a later stage, local stakeholders will evaluate the impact of the CAP.

Number of beneficiaries reached
Current situation (baseline) according to local stakeholders
Desired situation according to local stakeholders
Co-created solution

The Healthy Teeth Challenge has created awareness in the community of Mfuleni township about poor oral health amongst children and the consequences for their future. Now parents and children know what they need to do to prevent these problems. During the follow-up a mother said: ‘Because of this project my children now want to brush their teeth everyday. Not only at school, but also at home. The oldest child asked me to buy toothbrushes and toothpaste and taught her brothers and sisters how to take care of their teeth. I am really happy about that.’


Alice Grasveld

Coordinator & Action Reseacher
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Feray Coban

Action Researcher
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Amber-Lynn Bagchus

Action Researcher
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Fleur Rudolphus

Action Researcher
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Sao Ying Lai

Action Researcher
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Mavis Phahlindlela

Action Researcher
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Dieketso Nobonke Mphelisi

Action Researcher
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Sustainable Development Goals

Further Reading

Each Challenge delivers one or more reports and blogs. Read here all detailed information on the PAR methodology and outcomes of this Challenge.