HKU Dental Postgraduate Launches World's First Charity to Promote Accurate Birth Records
27 Aug 2013
Dr Jayakumar Jayaraman, a third-year PhD student at the Faculty of Dentistry, The University of Hong Kong, has launched a charity foundation dedicated to improving birth registration policies worldwide.
The charity launch took place today (27 August 2013) at the HKU Faculty of Dentistry, in the Prince Philip Dental Hospital, at a ceremony and party attended by Guest-of-Honour Dr Richard Ol-Santos (representative of the United Nations Climate Change Convention), and by Professor Lakshman Samaranayake (HKU Dean of Dentistry), Dr Gloria HM Wong (HKU Clinical Assistant Professor in Paediatric Dentistry), and Dr Carl KK Leung (forensic odontologist). All are official advisors to the new organisation.
Called the D.O.B Foundation, where D.O.B stands for Date of Birth, the new charity aims to raise awareness of the importance of recording births and encourage consistent procedures, especially in developing countries. The goal will be to give back millions of people their rightful birthdays, thereby protecting their identity and rights.
“A birth certificate serves as an identity document that confirms the existence of a child,” said charity founder and director Dr Jayaraman, who hails from India, where the charity is registered. “The absence of birth documents questions the existence of millions of children around the world and further fails to guard them against age-related crimes and abuses.”
In addition to enhancing registration of new births, the charity will promote accurate age assessment of children and young adults who do not possess birth or identity papers, by providing knowledge and skills on estimating age from dental X-ray examination records, which is the topic of Dr Jayaraman’s postgraduate studies at HKU.
“The developing dentition can be used as a maturity indicator from which an individual’s age can be assessed,” said Dr Gloria Wong, who is Dr Jayaraman’s PhD supervisor, and whose research group has developed a valid and reliable method of age estimation from dental X-rays. Dental age assessment is more accurate than currently used age assessment methods such as those based on measuring bone dimensions or sexual maturity, because dental development is “less affected by environmental factors”, she explained.
Having accurate birth records and verifying age has many legal implications worldwide, including immigration, citizenship, marriage, criminal prosecution, welfare, and political asylum, according to Dr Carl Leung, who is well known for helping local and international authorities by applying dentistry to forensics for identification and legal purposes.
With the help of volunteer dentists, non-governmental organisations, government departments, and other charities, D.O.B Foundation will start its campaign in India, where UNICEF estimates only 41% of births are registered. The pilot project in India will then serve as a blueprint for future efforts in other countries. Ultimately, the charity strives to promote global standard practices and legal policies in maintaining birth records and in performing accurate age assessment.
Indeed, there will be an increasing need to formulate a Universal Protocol for Age Assessment, as rising sea levels will force many dwellers of low-lying nations to live elsewhere as “climate change refugees”, said Dr Richard Ol-Santos, who is a member, or Conference of the Parties, of the United Nations Climate Change Convention.
The establishment of the charity foundation and its website, www.dob-foundation.org, is a prime example of HKU’s third mission of “knowledge exchange” with non-academic communities, which the University added in 2009 to its traditional missions of education and research, according to HKU Dean of Dentistry Professor Lakshman Samaranayake. “On behalf of the Faculty and HKU, I am proud to see one of our current postgraduates, Dr Jayakumar Jayaraman, embracing knowledge exchange in addition to learning and research during his PhD, so that the practical implications of his research can be realized worldwide,” he said.
Mr Oi-sing AU, Communications and Development Officer, Knowledge Exchange Unit, Faculty of Dentistry, The University of Hong Kong, Tel: 2859 0454; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the D.O.B Foundation, please visit http://www.dob-foundation.org
(From Left) Dr Gloria HM Wong, HKU Clinical Assistant Professor in Paediatric Dentistry; Prof Lakshman Samaranayake, HKU Dean of Dentistry; and Dr Jayakumar Jayaraman, a third-year PhD student at the HKU Faculty of Dentistry and the Founder and Director of the D.O.B Foundation with a “Certificate of Birth” for the D.O.B Foundation at its launching ceremony on 27 August 2013.
(From Left) Dr Gloria HM Wong, HKU Clinical Assistant Professor in Paediatric Dentistry; Dr Carl KK Leung, forensic odontologist; Prof Lakshman Samaranayake, HKU Dean of Dentistry; Dr Richard Ol-Santos, representative of the United Nations Climate Change Convention; and Dr Jayakumar Jayaraman, a third-year PhD student at the HKU Faculty of Dentistry and the Founder and Director of the D.O.B Foundation, at the launching ceremony of the D.O.B Foundation on 27 August 2013.