Background: People living in informal settlements in South Africa experience the double burden of poverty and ill health. Wallacedene, an informal settlement was highlighted in the media as being a socially and otherwise deprived community, with many accompanying health problems.
Aim: It was against this background that this study was conducted to gain a better understanding of the health and oral health status of children attending crèches in Wallacedene. It was designed to inform the mapping of an appropriate approach to develop a health promotion programme for crèches.
Method: Baseline data were collected through oral and general health examinations, site observations, a structured questionnaire and interviews with key people working with the children at two crèches.
Results: The results indicate poor oral and general health. Gingival inflammation (82.8%), caries (81.5%), and moderate to abundant plaque deposits (95.7%), fungal infections (33.9%), runny nose (51.4%), lymphadenopathy (45.7%) and itchy skin (5.7%) were found. Caregivers were not well informed about oral health. However, they were enthusiastic to engage in new interventions. The community was impoverished; public health interventions were limited with minimal resources such as health centres and voluntary service providers. The limited resources were not coordinated and did not adequately address the health and educational needs of the children.
Conclusion: A multi-sectoral approach focusing on community development is an appropriate approach to address the needs of crèche children in this community.