Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Healthy Smiles in Miami Dade Schools

We know from the successes of several of the DentaQuest Foundation’s grantees in Massachusetts that portable, school-based dental programs are a proven, effective public health approach to bring oral health services to children. Properly designed school-based programs can overcome many barriers that make it difficult for children to get care -- barriers such as parents getting time off from work to accompany the child, finding transportation to the dentist, and providing regular preventive oral health services for children participating in the Medicaid program.

This fall, the DentaQuest Foundation and the Miami-Dade office of Doral Dental, partnering with the Health Foundation of South Florida, The Children’s Trust, and two Miami community health centers, saw the start of the Healthy Smiles in Our Schools program in 17 public schools in Miami-Dade County.

The goal of Healthy Smiles is to increase the number of children receiving dental exams and treatment and to deliver these services in a practical and cost-effective way – at school where the children spend most of their day. Healthy Smiles is working in partnership with Health Connect in Our Schools, the healthcare program operated by The Children’s Trust in Miami Dade public schools.

The Healthy Smiles program is an example of how public education, philanthropy and public health in Miami Dade are working together to create a lasting solution for the oral health needs of South Florida’s children. Regular prevention measures like dental exams and putting dental sealants on the molars of adolescents can prevent dental disease that interferes with a child’s learning, speech, and eating, and which often leads to poor nutrition and problems in school.

Two community health centers, Borinquen Health Care Center and Community Health of South Florida, are the anchors for the project, providing the dental exams and treatment. The school-based program is an opportunity to provide necessary preventive care to children in Miami-Dade County and to connect their families with the clinics for ongoing comprehensive health care.

We are very proud to be part of this creative and practical partnership of healthcare, education and philanthropy.

Guest Blogging by Ralph Fuccillo, President, DentaQuest Foundation