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Focus on the dental home

Give Kids A Smile Promising Practices Symposium helps access programs take the next step toward continuity of care

How can access to care organizers nationwide transform their programs to provide children in need with a dental home?

More than 100 program planners, health care professionals, dental society staff, community advocates and others gathered at ADA Headquarters June 25-26 to compare strategies, offer advice and learn from others at the third annual Promising Practices Symposium titled, Maintaining Momentum Through Continuity of Care: Finding Dental Homes for America's Children.

The symposium, hosted by the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation and the ADA Foundation, was presented without registration fees. Participants paid only for hotel and travel costs. The DTA Foundation awarded 14 travel stipends for registrants who would have otherwise been unable to attend and provided free food and beverages for all registrants.

Having adopted a mission to eliminate cavities in U.S. 5-year-olds by 2020, the GKAS National Advisory Board encourages access programs to help achieve that goal.

"Give Kids A Smile is transitioning its goal to one that provides a dental home and continuity of care," said Dr. Ron Tankersley, ADA president-elect and symposium participant. "I'm proud that the ADA Foundation is moving GKAS to the next level. The goal for all 5-year-old American children to be caries free is laudable and can only be accomplished through the collaborative efforts of those groups concerned with oral health."

Attending the conference thanks to a travel stipend, Harvard School of Dental Medicine student Colleen Greene said the symposium helped her gain some new ideas about how Harvard's GKAS program can meet the goals it set for 2010.

"I personally view GKAS as a gateway through which dental students can begin to visualize their future careers as community conscious dentists," said Ms. Greene. "Especially since my school produces far more specialists than general dentists, it is so important that the future specialist student body understands the overwhelming and increasing need for their direct involvement in improving access to care through GKAS."

The conference, she added, "provided me with stellar examples of successful programs across the country that utilized creative community partnerships and are able to meet extraordinary goals."

"The symposium provided an opportunity for me to gain knowledge from groups throughout the country that have successfully implemented programs that utilize GKAS as a spring board to reach our ultimate goal—connecting all children to a dental home," said Dr. Jennifer M. Bankler, dental health coordinator for the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.

"I look forward to bringing many of these ideas back to the San Antonio District Dental Society and our collaborative partners as well as my colleagues in the public health department. Similar to many state and local government agencies, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District is challenged with limited funding for travel in our current economic climate. My attendance at the symposium would not have been possible without the generous contribution of the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation."

The 1-1/2-day symposium gave participants plenty of time to ask questions, brainstorm and compare notes on topics including forging and using community collaborations, legislative advocacy and working with Medicaid patients. Attendees will also be able to continue touch base with each other by participating in an online discussion forum organized by the ADA Department of Dental Society Services.

For more information on GKAS, visit www.ada.org/goto/gkas.