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Nasra Budul, Community Health Worker (CHW), Ready Set Smile

Nasra Budul is an oral health educator and Community Health Worker in Minneapolis public and charter schools. As an educator of children age fourteen and younger, Nasra is keenly aware of oral health disparities within her Somali community. She educates school systems, helps get children to preventive dental visits twice each school year, and visits with parents at all school events and conferences. As a Community Health Worker for Ready Set Smile, a nonprofit in Minneapolis whose mission is to reduce oral health disparities and educate communities on best oral health practices, Nasra is a highly sought after advocate and groundbreaking champion with the Minneapolis Somali community.

Many children in public and charter school systems have never seen a dentist. They do not know what cavities are or how to prevent them. Most have loving, hard-working parents who do not know how to best care for their children’s teeth for life-long health. Since many parents have never learned sound oral health practices, their children are missing out on essential daily oral health preventive practices.

Nasra focuses on teaching best practices for caring for children’s teeth and oral health every time she visits school classrooms. She also teaches parents these practices at school events and conferences. “I meet with children and parents in so many environments. These include conferences and after school activities as well as in larger community settings. I also create flyers, provide consent forms, and organize all needed materials between schools and parents. This helps children to more easily receive the care they need. I also make certain children enrolled in Ready Set Smile receive two preventive oral health visits through onsite dental clinics in our partnering schools. An advanced dental therapist and collaborative dental hygienists provide exams, give fluoride varnishes, and help children understand how to care for their teeth as a life-long practice. We see more than 1,600 school-age children a year during clinic visits. And we provide oral health education for all children in those schools regardless of enrollment in the Ready Set Smile dental clinic.”

Nasra listens each day to what children say about their oral health. “Many children – and their parents – have myths about oral care. One 12 year-old recently told me that his mother gives him orange soda every day to drink. He told me this is because it is made from oranges and therefore has lots of vitamin C. When I explained the sugar content in soda to him and how it causes cavities to form, he was astounded. Another child recently told me that he brushes his teeth every morning because he learned if you brush in the morning, you will not need to brush again until the next day. After I explain the realities of good oral care to children, they are often shocked.”

Nasra completed her Minnesota Community Health Worker certificate program two years ago. She was a Somali interpreter in health care settings before she received her certification. “I am always startled to learn how little many parents and children know about the importance of oral health care. This is a practice that shapes our future health in so many ways. Many parents simply don’t have a lot of information about cavities or how to prevent them. We work alongside parents and educators to help students have access to preventative oral health care and education. I love working with children, their families, and school systems as an advocate. I help them to learn actual realities and myths about oral health care.”

As a Community Health Educator for Ready Set Smile, Nasra lives the organization’s two-fold mission: educating and providing preventive oral health services and then empowering children to care for their oral health. “I love what I do. Being an advocate for children and parents is the best way to live each day.”

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