States To Brush Up On Childrens Oral Health

Representatives of eight states will gather in Charleston, S.C. next month for a closed-door policy workshop designed to strengthen oral health care initiatives for children.

Selected from 28 states that applied for the workshop, delegations from Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina and Virginia will attend the National Governors' Association's Policy Academy for State Officials on Improving Oral Health Care for Children Dec. 13-15.

The academy was prompted by the U.S. Surgeon General's report and conference on oral health care earlier this year and the governors' recognition of Centers for Disease Control statistics showing that dental decay is a widespread health threat among U.S. children.

"The goal is to assist states in developing a coordinated plan to improve oral health care for children. We're expecting that (the delegations) will leave the academy with a specific action plan," said the project's coordinator, Bob Burns of NGA's Center for Best Practices.

Burns said that the typical state team consists of seven or eight people. They include project leaders hand-picked by their respective governors as well as representatives of the state legislatures, state health programs and non-government interests such as state dental associations, universities or advocacy groups.

At present, oral health programs in the eight participating states "stand at many points along the spectrum of sophistication," Burns said. States that could demonstrate a strong commitment from the governor and a clear understanding of the status of the problem received first consideration for attendence at the workshop, he told Stateline.org. Colorado and Delaware are currently the only two states in the nation that do not include oral health care in their state Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Colorado will send a team to Charleston, but Burns said Delaware's application was passed over largely because of the departure of two-term Gov. Thomas Carper (D) and uncertainty over the priorities of his successor, who was unknown when the final selection was made in October. Democratic Lt. Gov. Ruth Minner was elected on Nov. 7 to succeed Carper.

The federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has extended over $100,000 to cover the academy's expenses and post-academy technical support for the states through a cooperative agreement with NGA.

Four dentists have confirmed as academy faculty: Dr. Burton Edelstein, director of the Children's Dental Health Project of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Dr. Donald Schneider, chief dental officer at the Healthcare Financing Administration's Center for Medicaid and State Operations, Dr. John Rosetti of HRSA; and Dr. Dr. James J. Crall of the University of Connecticut.

A second academy, also funded by HRSA, will take place next spring. Burns said that the participants in that academy have not yet been chosen.

Tags: Health