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    December 2017
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DOE & Partners Aim to Promote Oral Health

The Hawai‘i Dental Association (HDA) and the Hawai‘i State Department of Education (HIDOE) are renewing their commitment to educating kids about the importance of dental hygiene. The agencies have continued their Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to promote oral health by teaching students proper dental hygiene techniques and providing information about access to free dental health services.

HDA will conduct informational presentations in HIDOE first and second grade classes on O‘ahu, Maui, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i Island through December 2017 and again from January through February 2018, which is National Children’s Dental Health Month.

“Our goal with establishing healthcare partnerships, like this one with the Hawai‘i Dental Association, is to provide access to health services for our students so they can show up to school healthy, engaged and ready to learn,” said Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto. “Mahalo to everyone involved in this partnership—from the dentists to our teachers—it is an important step to ensuring our students are getting proper oral healthcare.”

These efforts are also part of a national initiative from the American Dental Association to bring preventative education and dental services to underserved children, which includes 92,000 economically disadvantaged public school students in Hawai‘i.

“During the first year of this partnership, we had 10 dentists educate more than 700 students,” added Hawai‘i Public Policy Advocate President Melissa Pavlicek. “We look forward to continuing the success of this partnership and expanding outreach even further this year. We encourage schools and teachers that are interested to contact Danny Cup Choy at (808) 447-1840.”

This partnership highlights the work that has been done by the department to ensure that all students come to school healthy and ready to learn.

Other healthcare partners include the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, which launched the “Hawai‘i Keiki” program with the department in 2014 and has increased school-based health services.

Hawaii State Department of Health Leads Oral Health Screening Initiative for Every Head Start and Early Head Start Student

The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH), in collaboration with the Hawaii Children’s Action Network, Head Start Collaboration Office, and Hawaii Head Start and Early Head Start programs, is conducting a statewide oral health screening project, beginning this fall. The project, which focuses on Hawaii keiki who are most at risk for cavities, builds upon the foundation set by the DOH’s Hawaii Smiles statewide third-grade screening project two years ago. The current project will look at younger children and include an oral health screening for every child enrolled in the Head Start and Early Head Start programs.The first screening is scheduled at the Parents and Children Together (PACT) headquarters at The Towers at Kuhio Park on Tuesday, Oct. 17, beginning at 10 am. Altogether, more than 2,970 children at more than 100 Head Start and Early Head Start sites statewide will have a dental screening in this school year. The health department will use this data on the oral health of these young children to inform the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and develop policies and programs to improve the oral health of children across Hawaii.

The Hawaii Smiles statewide screening team is composed of dentists and dental hygienists from the public and private sectors who will evaluate the extent of cavities in these children, provide oral health educational materials for parents and teachers, and offer recommendations for follow-up dental care.

“This project will allow us to better understand the patterns that surround dental decay in families and communities in our state,” said Dr. Gavin Uchida, DOH dental director. “On a community level, we know we must all do much more to improve the oral health of the residents of our state, and this information is foundational in helping us create the smartest, most effective plans for positive change.”

Previously, DOH issued the 2015/2016 Hawaii Smiles report, which validated that Hawaii’s third grade children have the highest prevalence of tooth decay in the nation. The baseline results were based on data collected from more than 3,000 third grade students in 67 public elementary schools during the 2014-2015 school year.

The findings from the Hawaii Smiles report were disappointing, but not surprising:

  • 71 percent of third graders in Hawaii have tooth decay, which is higher than the national average of 52 percent;
  • 22 percent of third graders have untreated tooth decay, indicating they are not receiving dental care;
  • About 7 percent of third graders are in need of urgent dental care because of pain or infection; and
  • There are significant oral health disparities by income as well as by race/ethnicity among third grade students in Hawaii.

“We are grateful that the HDS Foundation is being proactive and funding early solutions to Hawaii’s oral health problems,” said Deborah Zysman, executive director of the Hawaii Children’s Action Network. “These problems are often preventable when addressed in early childhood through screening, public education and outreach, and public policy. We are excited for the opportunity to make a difference in the health of Hawaii children.”

As part of the outreach efforts, parents and teachers will receive oral health educational materials and classroom supplies to reinforce the importance of good oral health to children.

The Hawaii Smiles report recommended community-based prevention programs that focus on oral health promotion and prevention services in early childhood programs to reach children at a younger age. The Early Head Start and Head Start programs were identified because of their extensive reach to children from birth to five years old.

“While this project is organized by the Department of Health, it actually is a growing coalition of local and national community partners who are taking action,” said Dr. Uchida. “We’re seeing the result of partnerships that start with caring individuals and small community groups, and extends to local businesses and associations, and even to national leadership at the CDC. A lot of people are now coming together to address the oral health problems we’re seeing in Hawaii, and this current project is just the beginning of good things to come.“

“We’re pleased to be able to continue our support for the Hawaii Smiles project,” said

Mark Yamakawa, president and CEO of Hawaii Dental Service (HDS). “Prevention is the key to good oral health especially for our young children, and we appreciate the collaborative effort to tackle this important issue in our state.”

The CDC awarded the DOH a $1.1 million grant to rebuild its oral health program, a portion of which is being used for these oral health screenings for 1,450 children at 50 Head Start and Early Head Start sites throughout the state.

The HDS Foundation gave a $45,000 grant to the Hawaii Children’s Action Network, which is helping to coordinate the logistics of this project, to expand the outreach efforts to an additional 59 sites and to conduct dental screenings for an additional 1,520 infants, toddlers and preschoolers for a total of more than 2,970 children.

Children will be referred to their dentist for follow-up care.  If they do not have a dentist, the DOH and the Head Start and Early Head Start programs will refer families to Community Case Management Corp., which assists Medicaid beneficiaries with finding dentists for treatment.

Hawaii Partnership Aims to Teach Kids Importance of Dental Hygiene

In an effort to provide oral health services for students who need it, the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) and the Hawaii Dental Association (HDA) are joining forces. The agencies have established a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to promote oral health by teaching students proper dental hygiene techniques and providing information about access to free dental health services.

Click to read memorandum

Dentists will be visiting HIDOE first and second grade classes on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii Island from Jan. 16-Feb. 28, 2017, which coincides with National Children’s Dental Health Month in February.

“When students do not get the health care they need we find that it affects their performance in school. This partnership is a huge step to provide services to many children who are not getting proper oral healthcare,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “As we work towards closing the achievement gap, we must look at the whole child and that includes their experiences outside of the classroom. We’re grateful to the Hawaii Dental Association for making this opportunity available for students.”

In October, the Hawaii Department of Health released “Hawaii Smiles,” a statewide report that showed a need for oral health improvement for Hawaii’s children. A few of the key findings included:

  • More than 7 out of 10 third graders (71 percent) are affected by tooth decay;
  • About 7 percent of Hawaii third grade children are in need of urgent dental care because of pain or infection;
  • Children from low-income families, as defined as those who are eligible for the National School Lunch Program, have a disproportionate amount of tooth decay (about 31 percent of children eligible for National School Lunch Program have untreated tooth decay compared to 13 percent who are not eligible).

These efforts are also part of a national initiative from the American Dental Association to bring preventative education and dental services to underserved children, which include 92,000 economically disadvantaged public school students in Hawaii.

“The goal of this partnership is to educate children from a young age on the importance of proper dental care. We also want to raise awareness about services that provide free dental care so their families can encourage and foster these new habits,” shared Melissa Pavlicek, president, Hawaii Public Policy Advocates who coordinated the MOA on behalf of HDA.

In ensuring that students come to school healthy and ready to learn, Superintendent Matayoshi has made the health and wellbeing of public school students a priority. She has worked on other innovative partnerships and programs that range from proper nutrition to healthcare access. In 2014, HIDOE launched the “Hawaii Keiki” program with the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The program builds school based health services that screen for treatable health conditions; help prevent and control communicable disease and other health problems; and provide emergency care for illness or injury.