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ADA Foundation 2011 Harris Fund grantees focus on fighting early childhood caries

February 20, 2012

By Jean Williams, ADA News staff

Early childhood caries has hundreds of formidable foes in 17 communities across the nation. Organizations in each of those communities received grants from the ADAF Harris Fund for Children’s Dental Health to help win their fight.

The ADA Foundation awarded nearly $85,000 to these nonprofit organizations for programs they’ve designed not only to prevent early childhood caries, but also to educate parents, caregivers and pregnant women on adequate oral health care.

Oregon: Oral health education is part of the program at the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center and Foundation.

One winner, the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center and Foundation in Hillsboro, Ore., was granted $5,000 to support its OB Dental Program.

The program centers on oral health treatment and education for pregnant women, and later, their babies. Moms-to-be receive periodontal assessments and participate in classes to improve their personal dental health. They also learn how to clean babies’ gums to reduce bacterial infection and learn healthy feeding practices, both of which help prevent early childhood caries. After giving birth, the mothers also bring their infants in for screenings and oral care demonstrations during Baby Days.

“This program is very exciting,” said Michele Horn, foundation relations officer for the center. “Pregnant women can have a high rate of periodontal disease and many of the pregnant women we were seeing were uninsured. They were not able to access dental services easily.”

Another challenge for area pregnant women and children is learning how to ensure they get enough fluoride, which heightens the need for oral health education, Ms. Horn said. “There’s not a lot of fluoride in water in Oregon,” she said. “So we do have a high incidence of dental decay.”

Ways to change that outcome are discussed in the program.

The 6-year-old OB Dental Program, a favorite of the health center’s leadership, is fully supported through grants and private donations, Ms. Horn said.

“This program, because it is serving uninsured women, doesn’t have the revenue stream of some other programs that we have,” she said. “The grant that the ADA Foundation through the Harris Fund provided is part of the big picture of helping us to continue with the program. It’s something that we feel really strongly about and we really see results from.”

All 2011 winners include:

• Inter Tribal Council of Arizona Inc., Arizona

• Salud Para La Gente, California

• Eisner Pediatric and Family Medical Center, California

• Palm Beach County Health Department, Florida

• Well Child Center, Illinois

• Champaign Urbana Public Health District, Illinois

• Aunt Martha’s Youth Service Center, Illinois

• University of Maryland, School of Public Health, Maryland

• The Family Partnership, Minnesota

• Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers Inc., New Jersey

• El Centro Family Health, New Mexico

• Villa Therese Catholic Clinic, New Mexico

• Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center and Foundation, Oregon

• Bon Secours St. Francis Health System Inc., South Carolina

• St. Paul Children’s Medical Corporation, Texas

• Salt Lake City Corporation, Utah

• Wood County Health Department, Wisconsin

The ADA Foundation established the ADAF Harris Fund for Children’s Dental Health in 2000 to honor the legacy and spirit of Dr. Samuel Harris, a distinguished pediatric dentist and philanthropist. Dr. Harris made a generous contribution in 1998 to endow a fund for oral health education and prevention of early childhood dental disease. He challenged the then ADA Health Foundation to match his contribution.

Find more information about ADAF programs at