AustinTalks | Oral health initiatives aim to improve the health of children on the West Side

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Two initiatives, announced last week by the Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation and the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation, aim to improve the oral health of children in communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19, poverty and other social determinants of health are.

The first initiative, a health equity and COVID-19 capacity renewal grant program, awarded a total of $ 7.3 million to health organizations across the state, including the Erie Family Health Foundation, whose clinics provide oral health care to underserved children on the West Side.

The second initiative, H20 on the Go, will provide water bottle filling stations to 55 schools in Illinois, including the Nash Elementary School and the Spencer Technology Academy in Austin.

“Inadequate oral health care can affect a child’s quality of life,” said Bob Egan, senior program officer at the Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation.

“When a child’s mouth hurts, it’s not just a dental problem, it affects every aspect of their life.”

Oral health problems can adversely affect a child’s school attendance and performance, according to a study by the American Public Health Association.

Erie Family Health received a US $ 200,000 grant to build capacity at its Humboldt Park Clinic. The health center offers the full range of dental preventive and therapeutic services; approximately 1,300 of Erie’s pediatric oral health patients are from zip codes in the Austin area.

“A lot of people simply do not have access to medical care and really only use dental clinics and even emergency rooms for emergency dental care instead of receiving preventive or less invasive treatments at the dental clinic,” said Dr. Lisa Kearney, Erie’s Oral Health Clinical Director.

Emergency rooms can be expensive, and since they don’t usually have a dentist, people are often sent home with an antibiotic and pain reliever – which temporarily alleviates their dental problem, but doesn’t address it entirely, Kearney said.

Drinking fluorinated water is one way to avoid problems. The H20 on the Go program, the second announced initiative, aims to provide better access to optimally fluorinated water.

“Consuming sugary beverages is a major contributor to tooth decay,” said Egan.

“The idea is to provide touch-free filling stations and encourage kids to drink more water … If we can get kids to drink more water than sugary drinks, it could affect obesity rates in the state as well.” is a healthier alternative. “

In addition to replacing existing water fountains with new water bottle filling stations, Nash Elementary and Spencer Technology students will also receive toothbrushes and reusable water bottles provided by the Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation.

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