Oral Health Program Wins Grant, Seeks to Improve Services to Children
March 29, 2006
Dental disease, including untreated cavities, is an epidemic, the most common chronic and infectious disease among children in the United States. Contra Costa County is no exception, where screening programs have indicated that two-thirds of the population - hundreds of thousands of children - need oral health treatment.
Funded by a new $120,000 grant from the San Francisco Foundation, Contra Costa Health Services' (CCHS) Children's Oral Health Program is undertaking a three-year mission to create a more comprehensive system of care for children needing oral health services in Contra Costa County.
The Contra Costa Children's Oral Health Access Project is a partnership between CCHS and the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile. The major components will be the addition of a Care Coordinator to the Children's Oral Health Program and expansion of service by the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.
"The Care Coordinator will help us improve access to oral health services for underserved children and ensure that our existing children's oral health services function more effectively," said Lynn Pilant, Manager of the Children's Oral Health Program (COHP), which is one of CCHS Public Health's Family, Maternal and Child Health Programs. "The Coordinator will do this primarily through helping children get dental care and improving relations with dental providers, which is critical."
Pilant explained that of the 600 members of the Contra Costa Dental Society and many more non-members practicing dentistry in Contra Costa, only 70 are willing to see the 48,441 children with Denti-Cal coverage on a regular basis. Many dentists indicate that they prefer serving low-income children through other programs that provide families with case management services.
To address this issue, the new Coordinator will work on recruiting providers into the pro bono and reduced-fee programs run by the Lebow Children's Dental Health Foundation of Contra Costa County.
The Contra Costa Children's Oral Health Access Project will also expand the existing services of the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile. The mobile clinic is a collaboration among John Muir Community Health Alliance, Brookside Community Health Center, La Clinica de la Raza, Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Bay Area and CCHS.
The Care Mobile visits schools, county health centers and juvenile justice facilities, provides preventive care and treatment and registers children with one of the community clinics, which then becomes the child's regular dental care provider, e.g. a "dental home."
"Low-income children are especially vulnerable to missing school because of dental problems, and that hurts them in so many ways," said Pilant. "Good oral health is essential to positive self-esteem, school readiness, good nutrition and overall well-being over the span of a person's life."
For more information about the Children's Oral Health Program, contact Lynn Pilant at firstname.lastname@example.org or 925-313-6163.
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