Hawaii SORH Addresses Rural Oral Health with Hawaii Smiles Program

i Jun 30th No Comments by

With funding from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Oral Health Infrastructure Grant, the Hawaii SORH has partnered with the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH), Family Health Services Division to assist in rebuilding its oral public health program.  Other partners include staff from the Primary Care Office and Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant.

“Hawaii’s oral public health program was shut down in 2009 due to lack of funding,” said Gregg Kishaba, Hawaii SORH Rural Health Coordinator. “The need for the program to be restarted was clear when we received two consecutive “F” grades on our PEW Foundation report card for achieving only one of eight key benchmarks.” Some of the indicators used to measure success included fluoridated water systems, school-based dental sealants programs, expanding dental hygienists scope of work, and Medicaid reimbursement.

Implementing the Hawaii Smiles program is the first step in the rebuilding process. Starting in January 2015, Hawaii Smiles will monitor the dental health of Hawaii’s third graders, gathering important data that will be used to develop dental disease prevention programs for children.

“Good oral health care is critical. Dental problems cause children to miss school and have difficulty eating, speaking, socializing and sleeping,” said Kishaba. “We’ll be asking 64 random schools to take part in Hawaii Smiles during the 2015 school year. Our plan is to repeat Hawaii Smiles every 3-5 years.”

With their parent’s consent, third graders will receive a free, non-invasive dental screening at their school. Screenings will be performed by a dentist or dental hygienist and will take about one minute per child. Children who are determined to be in need of dental care will be referred to their own dentist or a local clinic. “Hawaii Smiles will provide basic services that many rural communities are not getting.  We are currently building teams so that every island will have equal resources available to them,” Kishaba said.

Data collected from Hawaii Smiles will be analyzed by the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors (ASTDD).  Kishaba said “the baseline data will be shared with our partners to quantify the oral health burden within Hawaii’s school-age population. Findings will be used for public health strategic planning, policy development, and prevention activities.”

With funding in place and the Hawaii Smiles program starting in 2015, Kishaba is confident they are “establishing a solid foundation in which the core team can leverage and build upon other key oral health efforts in the years to come.”

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