State gets a 'head start' on increasing access to dental care for underserved children
CHICAGO, May 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) today announces the launch of its Head Start Dental Home Initiative to benefit the one-in-three low-income children in the state of Illinois. The Initiative links children participating in Head Start programs to local dentists who will provide children with a "dental home" which will ensure that each child's oral health care is delivered in a comprehensive, ongoing, accessible, coordinated and family-centered way by a participating dentist. The AAPD-Head Start Dental Home Initiative also equips parents, caregivers and Head Start staff with the latest evidence-based information on the prevention of tooth decay and the establishment of a foundation for a lifetime of oral health.
"Without proper care, tooth decay can cause needless pain and suffering and result in poor overall health and development," said AAPD President Dr. William C. Berlocher. "By connecting dentists with local Head Start programs, we hope to begin a lifelong preventive dental care program for our children here in Illinois and across the country."
The AAPD and Head Start are partnering at the national, regional, state and local levels to develop a national network of dentists to link Head Start children with "dental homes," train teams of pediatric and general dentists and Head Start personnel in optimal oral health care practices, and assist Head Start programs in obtaining comprehensive services to meet the full range of Head Start children's oral health needs. The partnership between AAPD and Head Start works to help fight children's tooth decay, the most common chronic childhood disease and a critical problem among children participating in Head Start. In fact, Head Start directors, program specialists, staff and even parents have reported that access to oral health services is the number one health issue affecting Head Start programs nationwide.
"Good oral health is essential to a child's overall health and development; unfortunately many Head Start families have difficulty accessing dental services. We are hopeful that this initiative will lead to local dentist-Head Start partnerships that will improve access to care for our children," said Gina Ruther, Head Start State Collaboration Director for the Illinois Department of Human Services.
A five-year contract that began in February 2007, the AAPD-Head Start Dental Home Initiative will support the more than 49,000 Illinois children that are currently enrolled in Head Start programming. As one of 12 new states chosen this year to participate, Illinois is the 28th state to partake in the AAPD-Head Start Dental Home Initiative. Other key components of the program include:
- Providing project leadership, administration and organizational support;
- Offering oral health expertise and technical assistance;
- Developing networks of dentists to provide access to dental homes;
- Training pediatric and general dentists to enhance their capability to meet the oral health needs of young children and their understanding of HS/EHS programs; and
- Enhancing HS/EHS oral health staff training and parent education programs.
"Our goal with the Head Start Dental Home Initiative is to provide oral health care to five million children in Head Start programs over five years," said Berlocher. "Access to care is one of the greatest challenges facing low-income families and we hope to bridge that gap by providing the quality services these children deserve."
Many of the children enrolled in Illinois Head Start and Early Head Start programs are faced with barriers to the oral health care they deserve, including financial challenges, lack of insurance coverage or distance from a dental facility. The AAPD-Head Start Dental Home Initiative will provide education and training to Illinois dentists and their staffs to help Head Start families overcome the challenges they face in trying to access care for their children. The program will also help teams of Illinois pediatric and general dentists and Head Start personnel to develop local partnerships within their communities that can offer ongoing support to these underserved families.
For more information about the AAPD-Head Start Dental Home Initiative or how to become involved, please visit http://www.aapd.org/headstart.
Founded in 1947, the AAPD is a not-for-profit membership organization representing the specialty of pediatric dentistry. AAPD's 7,700 members are predominately pediatric dentists and primary care providers who deliver comprehensive specialty treatments for infants, children, adolescents and individuals with special health care needs. As advocates for children's oral health, the AAPD aims to promote the use of evidence-based policies and guidelines, foster research concerning pediatric oral health, and educate health care providers and the public to improve children's oral health. For further information, please visit the AAPD Web site at www.aapd.org.
About The Office of Head Start
The Head Start program provides grants to local public and private non-profit and for-profit agencies to provide comprehensive child development services to economically disadvantaged children and families, with a special focus on helping preschoolers develop the early reading and math skills they need to be successful in school. In FY 1995, the Early Head Start program was established to serve children from birth to three years of age in recognition of the mounting evidence that the earliest years matter a great deal to children's growth and development.
Head Start programs promote school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families. They engage parents in their children's learning and help them in making progress toward their educational, literacy and employment goals. Significant emphasis is placed on the involvement of parents in the administration of local Head Start programs.
SOURCE American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry