June 23, 2010
A June 18 policy briefing at the California State Capitol in Sacramento highlighted the alarming condition of children's oral health through the state. The goal of the event was to educate legislative staff and advocates on the relationship between oral and overall health, the consequences of poor oral health among California's youth and possible solutions to help provide care to the underserved.
A California HealthCare Foundation survey found that 24 percent of children aged 0-11 in the state have never visited a dentist. California children's dental health was ranked third from the bottom in a recent National Survey of Children's Health, above only Arizona and Texas, in a study of all 50 states.
Dr. Paul Glassman, professor and director of Community Oral Health at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, and co-director of the Pacific Center for Special Care, took part in leading the legislative briefing as part of the center's advocacy efforts.
The event was introduced by Joel Cohen, Chair of the Policy Committee of the California Task Force on Youth and Workplace Wellness, host of the briefing.
A state-wide overview was given by Len Finocchio, senior program officer at the California Health Care Foundation. Finocchio discussed the relationship between oral health and wellness and gave evidence about the seriousness of the problem among California's children.
Local perspective was provided by Michelle Rivas, president of the Twin Rivers School District and Bonita Mallory, Coordinator of Student Health, Wellness and Prevention at Twin Rivers, which last year implemented the Virtual Dental Home teledentistry pilot project in the school district to provide care for foster children.
Glassman discussed the Virtual Dental Home project as one solution to provide care for underserved residents, including children and seniors. Launched in 2009, the project brings dental care directly into community settings such as schools and nursing homes, using the latest technology and a system of specially trained dental hygienists and dental assistants providing care on-site.
"This briefing was a good opportunity to inform legislative staff about the dire state of children's oral health in California and highlight some of the innovative new models and approaches being taken to address the need," said Glassman. "Telehealth technologies and other new approaches such as the Virtual Dental Home are one way to provide additional screening and care for those who may not be able to make it to the dentist's office."
The California Task Force on Youth and Workplace Wellness was launched by the State Legislature in 2002 to address the critical issues of physical fitness, nutritional health and overall wellness in California's schools and workplaces. Each year, the Policy Committee of the Task Force hosts policy briefings to educate state legislators and their staff on the most pressing health policies of the legislative term. Briefings are held at the State Capitol and open to the public. They are educational in nature - the Task Force does not advocate for or against any legislation.
Through participation at events such as this legislative briefing, the Pacific Center for Special Care at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry seeks to better inform members of the legislature and their staff, as well as the general public, about steps being taken to improve the state of oral health in California and provide care to underserved people.
Category Type: Community Outreach, Special Events
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