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Temple University starts kids' access program

June 17, 2013

By Kelly Soderlund, ADA News staff

Child-centered: Drs. Stephan Kim and Daniel Phillips treat a young patient at the Temple University Kornberg School of Dentistry. Eventually, children who are served under Project ENGAGE will receive care at this clinic.

Kind Donation: Temple University, health and local leaders gather to receive a $1.75 million grant from United Health Foundation and UnitedHealthcare. From left, State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas; Dr. Paul Westerberg, chief dental officer, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare; Dr. Amid Ismail, dean of the Kornberg School of Dentistry; Sue Schick, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of Pennsylvania; Dr. Michael Weitzner, vice president of national clinical operations, UnitedHealthcare Specialty Benefits; Anthony Stephens, constituency relations, State Sen. Christine Tartaglione’s office; and Dr. Joseph Sheridan, MCO Medical Director, UnitedHealthcare of Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia—Temple University's Kornberg School of Dentistry is launching Project ENGAGE, a $1.75 million initiative designed to improve children's access to oral health care.

Temple is partnering with UnitedHealthcare, United Health Foundation and the state of Pennsylvania to deliver care to North Philadelphia children under age 6 and their families who are enrolled in the state's Medicaid plan. The goal is to eventually expand the initiative to other parts of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the United States.

“This project will pair community health workers with families, including pregnant women, to help them find a dental home, remove barriers to care and provide education in a language they can understand, all while coordinating care with Temple's clinic,” said Dr. Amid Ismail, dean of the Kornberg School of Dentistry, who developed the idea for Project ENGAGE. “We want to try to manage disease rather than just treat it.”

Less than 30 percent of children under age 6 living in the five zip codes surrounding Kornberg's North Philadelphia campus have access to proper dental care, according to a Temple news release, often because of a lack of awareness of the importance of oral health, limited transportation and access to qualified dental care providers. Dr. Ismail said the goal of Project ENGAGE is to increase that access to at least 60 percent, and he expects to serve around 1,000 children.

Project ENGAGE will create an oral health registry that will use dental claims information and operating and emergency department histories to identify children most at risk of developing any health issues as a result of tooth decay. The program will also provide training for primary care physicians to encourage preventive screenings and to apply dental varnish while also giving general dentists who do not currently provide dental care for young children the support and information necessary.

Project ENGAGE will be designed to assess and achieve the most of Dental Quality Alliance measures that focus on utilization, access, diagnosis of disease, prevention, provision of treatment and continuity of care indicators. The project will be the first to implement the International Caries Classification and Management System that incorporates the Caries Management by Risk Assessment philosophy and the principles of prevention and tooth preservation in managing dental caries as a disease process.

“By combining Temple University's clinical expertise with UnitedHealthcare's extensive claims information, we are promoting oral health, expanding access to care and reducing the prevalence of dental disease,” said Dr. Michael Weitzner, vice president of UnitedHealthcare Dental. “We have the unique opportunity to enhance the health delivery system and improve health outcomes for thousands of children in Pennsylvania.”

United Health Foundation is providing a $1 million grant for Project ENGAGE and UnitedHealthcare will donate $750,000.

Pennsylvania's Office of Medical Assistance Programs in the Department of Public Welfare has been helping to develop and support Project ENGAGE since 2010, said Dr. Paul Westerberg, chief dental officer. The state office sees Project ENGAGE as a prime example of the type of public-private partnerships promoted in the Surgeon General's “Oral Health in America” and subsequent “National Call to Action to Promote Oral Health” reports to improve the oral health status of those who still suffer disproportionately from oral diseases, Dr. Westerberg said.

“From our perspective, this project incorporates multiple innovative features that promote principles and processes that we advocate, including orientation toward disease prevention; use of effective care management to achieve optimum health outcomes; encouragement of a holistic, team approach to care; use of advanced technology to facilitate effective communication and care management; emphasis on improved health outcomes rather than service delivery alone; and the potential for cost savings while achieving better health outcomes,” Dr. Westerberg said.

Project ENGAGE is expected to begin this fall, Dr. Ismail said.