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UIC receives NIH grant to study oral health in families

December 15, 2015 The University of Illinois at Chicago announced Dec. 10 the National Institutes of Health awarded the school a five-year, $5 million grant to develop and test an outreach program to reduce the caries rates in Chicago's low-income and minority infants and toddlers.
The grant funds efforts by community health works to reach out and educate families about oral hygiene at health clinics and WIC (Women, Infants and Children) centers and in their homes.
"We want to improve the oral health of the child by improving the oral health of the whole family," said Dr. Molly Martin, associate professor of pediatrics in the UIC College of Medicine. "If the parents or caregivers aren't practicing good oral hygiene themselves, the chance that the children will take good care of their own teeth is much lower."
Dr. Martin said the success of educational interventions can depend on the environment in which they are delivered.
"Are families more likely to take action if they are reached at home, in the clinic, or at a WIC center?" asked Dr. Martin, who is a fellow of the UIC Institute for Health Research and Policy and principal investigator on the NIH grant.
Her team also wants to look at whether a combination of settings has a greater effect.
The study, called Coordinated Oral Health Promotion Chicago, or CO-OP Chicago, includes UIC researchers in clinical pediatrics, dentistry and health policy. They will recruit and train six community health workers to talk with 1,500 families in Chicago who have children between the ages of six months and three years. Families will be followed for two years to evaluate their overall oral health and the incidence of cavities in the children.

Pediatric dentists at the College of Dentistry will develop the training curriculum for the community health workers.
Almost half of children 11 years and under have cavities, one of the most common chronic health conditions of childhood, particularly among low-income and minority children. In Chicago, 63 percent of third graders have cavities, and more than half of the cavities go untreated.