Ky. initiative targets kids' dental health

Kentucky is embarking on a three-year initiative to improve dental health among children throughout Eastern Kentucky that Gov. Steve Beshear is calling "aggressive (and) potentially ground-breaking."

Utilizing more than $1.6 million in federal grants over the next three years, the initiative will:

  • Train more dentists to work with children to help with a chronic shortage of pediatric health providers.
  • Create community coalitions throughout Appalachia to better tailor healthcare solutions and programs to impacted counties.
  • Provide two sets of portable dental equipment to community coalitions to increase access and use of dental services for both children and adults.

"This funding will allow us to aggressively focus on increasing the number of dentists who treat young patients by offering more and better training opportunities for these professionals, as well as providing special resources targeted at building community involvement in distressed counties in Appalachia and ensuring communities have access to needed equipment," Beshear said in a press release.

Funding for the initiative is the result of grants from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

The Kentucky Oral Health Program in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services will coordinate the Access for Babies and Children to Dentistry (ABCD) initiative, supported primarily by the grant from HRSA.

The program's initial focus will be on creating a training curriculum to teach Kentucky dentists effective pediatric technique. Once the curriculum is finalized, a series of seminars and Web-based training modules will be offered, and mentors will work with local practitioners. Incentives to participate also will be offered to providers, at no cost to them, in the form of continuing education credits.

The ARC is also providing the state with two grants aimed at focusing extra efforts on the 40 counties in Kentucky currently designated as "distressed." These funds can help financially offset the time taken off from practice for dentists in the ARC region who participate in the ABCD training initiative.

The funds will also support the creation of up to 12 local coalitions to tailor oral healthcare programs to specific communities in distressed counties. The coalitions will work with local health departments and other partners to assess dental health on the community level, propose and implement solutions, and be eligible for additional grant benefits to support local priorities.

Finally, in the third year of the grants, the funding will be used to provide two full sets of portable dental equipment to coalitions from ARC-distressed counties to increase access and use of dental services for both children and adults.

According to the governor's office, in 2004 Kentucky led the U.S. in missing teeth among people age 65 or older, and some 27% of Kentuckians of all ages had lost six or more teeth to decay or gum disease compared to 18% in the rest of the nation.

Copyright © 2009

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