GUILFORD COUNTY RECEIVES PLANNING GRANT TO EXPLORE DENTAL SERVICES IN LOCAL SCHOOLS
A new planning grant was awarded to Guilford County Public Health Department’s Dental Program to explore expanding dental care in underserved schools in Guilford County. Guilford County is one of 12 organizations to receive $65,000 in funding from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation and the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation. Guilford County will be eligible to apply for a two-year implementation grant from The Duke Endowment next spring.
Over 4.1 million Carolinians, including many children, live in designated dental professional shortage areas. School-based programs provide care to children who might not otherwise have access to oral health professionals. These programs eliminate other barriers, such as transportation issues and time away from school and work for appointments.
According to a Duke Endowment publication, school-aged children are particularly affected by poor oral health, and tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children. Oral health problems and pain affect performance at school and are the top reason for school absences in low-resourced communities. Research finds that dental pain has a negative effect on a child’s quality of life. Studies show that poor oral health in children is associated with increased shyness, feelings of worthlessness, unhappiness, and reduced friendliness.
“Dental disease is largely preventable when consistent measures are taken to ensure that children have access to oral health care,” said Merle Green, Guilford County’s Public Health Director. “We know that programs based in schools are effective, and this grant will allow us to research ways of expanding dental care into the schools in our region. Bringing innovative programs to Guilford County will provide students with needed dental care in convenient and accessible locations.”
The grant enables Guilford County to plan school-based oral health programs that prioritize preventive services (such as regular cleanings) and address certain restorative treatments (including fillings) for school-aged children. Over six months, grantees will work with technical assistance providers to understand the practice model, assess organizational capacity, and develop implementation plans. Other grantees in the two states include health departments, safety-net providers, and non-profit organizations.
“School-based programs are designed to remove barriers by meeting children where they spend much of their days and to help ensure they are healthy, pain-free, and ready to learn,” said Stacy Warren, program officer for health care at The Duke Endowment. “We are proud to support Guilford County in expanding dental care for children living in rural and underserved areas with few or no treatment options.”
“We know that early intervention can be very powerful in affecting health outcomes overall. An increased focus on promoting good oral health habits and improving oral health status, especially for children most at risk of poor oral health, can have profound consequences for long-term health status,” said Erika Kirby, executive director of the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation.
Currently Guilford County Public Health has two dental clinics. Public Health Dental Clinics are located at 501 E Green Drive in High Point NC and the other is as 1103 W Friendly Avenue in Greensboro NC. Children up to the age of 21 with Medicaid or North Carolina Health Choice and children who are uninsured and meet family income guidelines are eligible for services. Women approved for Pregnancy Medicaid are also served.
The Blue Cross Foundation grants are part of a multi-year collaboration between three southeastern philanthropies to address oral health, with an early focus on school-aged children. This funding had provided grants since November 2018 to 10 organizations that have since received additional support to expand oral health services in 79 elementary, middle, and high schools during the 2019-2020 academic year. The new funding is expected to be equally as beneficial.
“All sectors must work together to prevent oral disease in North and South Carolina and ensure more access to much-needed care,” said Katie Eyes, Vice President, program and strategy at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation. “Such collaboration will have a significant and lasting influence for generations to come.”
To learn more about the School-based Oral Health Expansion Program, please visit: https://dukeendowment.org/our-work/supporting-oral-health
To learn more about Guilford’s County Dental Program, contact Dr Cheneta MacDonald at 336-641-6846 or visit www.guilfordcountync.gov