April 16th, 2012

Children and Youth Fund continues work with School Nurses to Improve Dental Care

In May 2011, the Community Foundation of Tompkins County’s Children and Youth Fund and the Tompkins County Youth Services Department hosted a forum at TST BOCES to learn more from school nurses and pediatric nurses about the needs of children they see every day.  We summarized what we learned and shared it with all nurses, the administrators in each district, and others responsible for children and health care planning.

Follow up Action on Dental Care Dental care for low income children lacking insurance was identified by a number of nurses as a significant problem, so the Foundation decided to focus on this area.

Grant Proposal When the Community Foundation became aware of a grant opportunity from the Pediatric Dental Society, we worked with several nurses and dentists and the Human Service Coalition’s Health Planning Council to submit a proposal. We had hoped to secure funding that would have encouraged more dentists to offer pro bono care for those not eligible for Medicaid, to strengthen the links between schools and the Dental Care program operated by the Department of Social Services, and to launch an expanded dental health awareness program with low-income women with infants to reduce bottle mouth and other oral health problems in young children. Unfortunately, that grant was not funded but the Children and Youth Fund will be looking for other opportunities to bring more resources to our community for this purpose.

Fostering collaboration with local dentists The Children and Youth Committee arranged to meet with the Dental Society of Tompkins County to review with them some of the challenging dental care situations nurses encounter frequently, to share examples of successful school-dentist partnerships, and to explore ways to make it easier for school nurses to refer children who lack dental insurance or Medicaid directly to dentists willing to provide free service.  Since then, one dental practice adopted a local school, conducted dental screenings for all of their 2nd graders and sponsored a dental health poster contest and offered dental care goody bags as prizes.

Pilot program to connect nurses and dentists As a follow up to that meeting, a pilot program was developed between the Ithaca School District and the Dental Society in which the head school nurse will work with the head of the Dental Society to locate a willing dentist when a dental care need is identified by a school nurse.   

The Children and Youth Fund invites your continued input from youth health practitioners on ideas for creatively meeting the needs of the children in school and community.

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