Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Making Coverage Matter: Pew’s 50 State Report on Children’s Oral Health

On May 24th, The Pew Center on the States, with support from the DentaQuest Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation, issued its second annual report, Making Coverage Matter: Pew’s 50 State Report on Children’s Oral Health.

The report reflects a concerted effort and notable improvement among many of the states during the past year, proving that system changes can yield positive results for states continuing to struggle to provide adequate oral health care for children.

This year, seven states earned ‘A’s including Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and South Carolina. Of these, Maryland was the top performing state, meeting seven of eight benchmarks. In addition, 22 states improved their grades, six of which raised their grade by at least two letters.

But even ‘A’ states have work to do. In five of these seven states, most Medicaid-enrolled children went a full year without seeing a dentist. And the total underserved population of all 7 ‘A’ states is 2,854,594 people.

While this report highlights the hard work that has gone on across the country to educate the general public and policy makers about programs that reduce disease and increase access to oral health care, lack of access to dental care is still an unacceptably persistent problem. Every year, 16 million children go without dental care, placing them at great risk of getting cavities. Cavities are almost 100% preventable when children have access to prevention, education and treatment services.

Five states including Florida, Hawaii, New Jersey, Indiana, Montana, received ‘F’s from this year’s report. By adopting relatively inexpensive and cost-effective strategies, ‘F’ states could improve children’s dental health. For Florida, Hawaii and New Jersey, this is the second straight year receiving failing grades. Indiana and Montana fell from a ‘D’ to an ‘F’.

This report gets people talking about oral health—and that’s important because it serves as a continuing national call to action for all 50 states to do more to improve children's oral health.

So let’s keep talking. What do you think this report has accomplished? Have you seen any signs of change in your state? Please share your thoughts by commenting on my blog.

A copy of the report can be found on the DentaQuest Foundation’s website, www.dentaquestfoundation.org.