UCLA gets $9 million from First 5 LA to increase dental care access for infants, young children Dental, pediatric and public health organizations all recognize that providing ongoing oral health care to children beginning in the first year of life leads to better oral health and lower dental-related health care costs in adolescent and adult years..
Yet only a small fraction of American infants and preschool children receive the dental services professionals recommend, and millions continue to experience tooth decay and its consequences, including pain, infection and loss of teeth, which can result in problems eating, sleeping and learning.
To address this problem, First 5 LA, the commission and advocacy organization created by California voters to invest tobacco-tax revenues in programs that improve the lives of children in Los Angeles County, has awarded the UCLA School of Dentistry and its partners more than $9 million to increase access to dental care for Los Angeles children from birth to age 5.
Dr. James J. Crall, professor and chair of the division of public health and community dentistry at the UCLA School of Dentistry and a member of the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities, will serve as project director.
As part of the “First 5 LA 21st Century Community Dental Homes Project,” UCLA and its collaborators — the Child Care Alliance of Los Angeles, the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County, Safety Net Solutions and the Sesame Workshop — will work with 10 to 12 community clinics in the Greater Los Angeles area to establish a "dental home" model of care, in which services will be delivered in a comprehensive, continuously accessible, coordinated and family-centered way by licensed dentists and other health care providers.
The clinics selected to participate will be from areas with high levels of documented oral health care needs and population groups shown to be at high risk for early dental disease, such as Latinos and African Americans.
The Dental Home Project has three major objectives:
Increasing access to dental care for children from birth to age 5 by increasing the capacity of clinics to serve as high-quality dental homes.
Increasing parents' and child care providers' awareness of the importance of oral health care for preschool children.
Developing a sustainable community dental home model system of care delivery.
UCLA and its collaborating organizations will use their expertise in pediatric oral health care and quality improvement; their existing relationships with child care providers; their experience in making resources and training available to parents and child care professionals; and their knowledge of systems and policy issues affecting financing and delivery of services to improve oral health care in participating communities over the course of the project.
The fundamental goal is to establish a prototype for sustainable, community-based systems that link and integrate local health care, child care, education and family-support program providers to furnish optimal oral health care for children from birth to age 5.
"Improving oral health and oral health care requires multifaceted efforts that effectively address the major determinants of health and disease; and that requires collaborative approaches that include but also go beyond delivering clinical services," said UCLA's Crall.
In highlighting the importance of education and preventive dental care for infants and young children, the UCLA School of Dentistry team will work with its community-based partners to conduct community outreach activities and develop culturally appropriate, family-centered oral health curricula and training programs for child care workers and parents.
Innovative oral health resources include the Sesame Street "Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me" bilingual multimedia outreach resource kit, which features healthy habits and daily routines that promote oral health for young children, and the Sesame Street "Healthy Habits for Life" child care resource guide, which helps child care providers work with families and young children to establish an early foundation of healthy habits.
"Because the need for ongoing oral health care for young children is so critical in L.A. County, First 5 LA is pleased to invest in UCLA's collaborated efforts to reach those most in need of this program," said Craig A. Steele, interim chief executive officer of First 5 LA. "This funding supports our mission to increase the number of young children who are physically and emotionally healthy, safe and ready to learn."
"As a prototype for community-based systems of oral health care, this project promises to bring about preventative and lasting improvements in oral health, not only in the Los Angeles community but eventually at national and global scales as well," said No-Hee Park, dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry. "The UCLA School of Dentistry is proud to be leading the way in this important mission."
The UCLA School of Dentistry is dedicated to improving the oral health of the people of California, the nation and the world through its teaching, research, patient care and public service initiatives. The school provides education and training programs that develop leaders in dental education, research, the profession and the community; conducts research programs that generate new knowledge, promote oral health and investigate the cause, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of oral disease in an individualized disease-prevention and management model; and delivers patient-centered oral health care to the community and the state.
First 5 LA oversees the L.A. County allocation of funds from Proposition 10, which added a 50-cent tax on tobacco products sold in California. Funds raised help pay for health care, education and child development programs for children from the prenatal stage to age 5 and their families. First 5 LA’s mission is to increase the number of young children who are physically and emotionally healthy, safe, and ready to learn. For more information, please visit www.First5LA.org.
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