We all know prevention, promotion and education work. But it's still incredibly reaffirming to learn about a fairly new initiative that's already making huge inroads.
That was the case today during a session on "Cavity-Free At Three: An Oral Disease Prevention Program for Infants and Toddlers in Colorado."
Begun just a couple years ago, Cavity-Free At Three educates families and health providers on good oral health and cavity prevention, pushes for the integration of oral health into well-child visits, helps children find dental homes and trains health workers in oral health risk assessments. The program puts a special emphasis on reaching pregnant women, spreading the word that mom's oral health can affect the health of her baby and that it's perfectly safe for pregnant women to seek dental care. Like the name says, the initiative's goal is for all Colorado kids to have cavity-free smiles by age 3.
Session presenter Karen Savoie, who directs education for the oral health initiative, noted that dental caries is the most common chronic childhood disease — five times more common than asthma. Eighty percent of the disease is in 20 percent of the population and like many diseases, dental caries is often a disease of poverty. In Colorado, about 8 percent of kids have experienced some tooth decay by age 1, with that number going up to 70 percent by age 4, Savoie said. To reach as many children as possible, the initiative works hard to bring workers across various health disciplines together in the name of prevention.
"We will all gain strength by sharing the responsibility of early childhood caries," Savoie said.
So far, more than 600 workers in Colorado have received training via Cavity-Free At Three, with 24 sessions taking place in 2010, thousands of fluoride varnish and oral health kits have been distributed, and more than 10,000 Colorado infants and families are estimated to have received services through the program, according to presenter Jack Westfall, a family doctor involved in the effort.
"Primary care providers are uniquely positioned to help," Westfall said.
On the public health side, three Colorado counties have integrated the oral health program into their work with the help of technical grants from Cavity-Free At Three, said session president Melissa Broudy, who worked with Jefferson County Public Health on the effort. And the results have been impressive: Colorado's Eagle County served 253 children in 2008 (accounting for 15 percent of all kids younger than 5 in that county); Grand County served 256 children over a two-year period (or 33 percent of all kids younger than 5); and Jefferson County did more than 1,500 screenings, with an additional 500 screenings in collaboration with Head Start.
That makes me smile.
Above illustration courtesy iStockphoto