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Souths Cares kicked off its Indigenous Oral Health Program in the Northern New South Wales towns of Casino and Grafton yesterday.

Souths Cares, along with former Rabbitohs Legends Rhys Wesser and Nathan Merritt, visited local students from Casino, Casino West and Gillwillga public schools, to promote the importance of good oral hygiene and host a number of NRL Football Clinics.

Souths Cares mentor, Rhys Wesser said their Program is aimed at educating Aboriginal students to Eat Well, Drink Well, Play Well, Brush Well and Stay Well.

“Today I spoke to around 550 young students about the benefits of keeping their bodies healthy and active,” he said.

“At Souths Cares we place an emphasis on good oral hygiene awareness as poor brushing habits can lead to a number of serious illnesses.

“To help us deliver our message, Souths Cares has formed a strong partnership with the NSW Government’s Centre for Oral Health Strategy, Colgate and the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health.”

The State wide Manager of Aboriginal Oral Health, Boe Rambaldini, said the State’s Centre for Oral Health Strategy, a state-wide oral health strategy and policy unit, has an important role in the promotion of oral health.

“Untreated dental decay rates are often more than twice as high among Aboriginal Australians compared with other Australians,” said Boe.

“That is why the Centre has ensured clinical staff from the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health undertook free assessment checks for all students participating in the Program.”

The Poche Centre staff assessed the dental health of approximately 140 students today with around 20 of those requiring follow-up treatment.

Kylie Gwynne, Director, Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, The University of Sydney, said The Poche Centre is delighted to support this important community initiative.

“When role models such as Rhys Wesser and Nathan Merritt promote oral health, kids are more likely to brush their teeth, drink tap water and wear a mouth guard,” she said.

“Improving the oral health of Aboriginal children is fundamental to reducing chronic disease and closing the gap in life expectancy.”

As well as their education sessions the students were invited to stay active and learn some valuable football skills by participating in a number of Rugby League Clinics.

Garry Stevenson, the NRL’s Northern Regional Game Development Manager, congratulated Souths Cares and the regional health organisations on their enormous contribution in keeping local Indigenous kids healthy, active and well.

“The South Sydney Rabbitohs are leading the way once again for young Indigenous children in the NSW regions,” said Gary.

“Souths Cares’ leadership and initiatives with their Programs and promotional visits to Northern NSW townships will be a massive contribution to our communities.”

Today the Souths Cares road trip rolls into the NSW regional centre of Coffs Harbour where an additional 300 students from the district will access the free Program.