History

SmileHigh was founded in 2003 when New Zealander Dr Julian Haszard, a specialist orthodontist, volunteered as a dentist in the Everest region of Nepal. He worked alongside Dr Mingma Sherpa (a Nepali dentist) and it became clear to both dentists that the dental health of children in the region was deteriorating. It appeared that a rapid change in diet due to the introduction of sugar based foods from the influx of western visitors (and now widely available in Nepal) was the root problem. The children were highly vulnerable to severe dental decay due to this change in diet and a lack of any strategy to protect their teeth.

SmileHigh was founded in 2003 when New Zealander Dr Julian Haszard, a specialist orthodontist, volunteered as a dentist in the Everest region of Nepal. He worked alongside Dr Mingma Sherpa (a Nepali dentist) and it became clear to both dentists that the dental health of children in the region was deteriorating. It appeared that a rapid change in diet due to the introduction of sugar based foods from the influx of western visitors (and now widely available in Nepal) was the root problem. The children were highly vulnerable to severe dental decay due to this change in diet and a lack of any strategy to protect their teeth.

Julian and Mingma sought to devise a long-term and sustainable treatment strategy in addition to the immediate treatment of decayed teeth. They were inspired by the sustainable approaches of education and prevention advocated by Sir Edmund Hillary and Fred Hollows, where local people were empowered to solve their own health issues.

In 2004 the Khumbu Dental Project was established. It was Julian and Mingma’s vision of a five-year dental project for the Everest region; an area in desperate need of preventive dental services. This project has since developed into what is now known as SmileHigh, which leverages the dedication of a small team of dental hygienists under the supervision of Mingma.

In 2008 SmileHigh started to see an improvement in the dental health of children in the Everest region and the organisation expanded its operations within Nepal. Since 2008 SmileHigh has provided dental services to a total of seven regions with periodic follow-up visits the monitor and track progress.

SmileHigh has adopted a five-year planning cycle. The first cycle was from 2003 to 2008, the second from 2009 to 2013, with the third (and current) cycle 2014 to 2017. Present levels of field work outputs are to be maintained with provision for further service outputs if increasing funding is available.