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HHS initiatives listed

Washington—Presented here is a summary of the Health and Human Services Oral Health Initiative 2010 activities related to multiple HHS agencies and the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine.

Head Start Dental Home Initiative

The HHS Office of Head Start has awarded a five-year, $10 million contract to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry to establish a national network of dental homes for Head Start and Early Head Start children.

This initiative will use a public-private partnership to develop a national infrastructure focused on recruiting and supporting pediatric dentists and general dentists from public and private sectors to serve as dental homes for young, racially and ethnically diverse children at high risk for dental disease.

The Head Start-AAPD partnership will offer parents, caregivers and Head Start staff the latest evidence-based information on how they can help prevent tooth decay and establish a foundation for a lifetime of oral health. The AAPD is recruiting and training private sector pediatric and general dentists in optimal oral health care practices for working with high-risk populations, such as Head Start’s.

(Administration for Children and Families; HHS contact Robin Brocato at

National Oral Health Surveillance Plan

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and CDC's Division of Oral Health have launched an effort to enhance the nation's oral health surveillance data capability and develop a long-range plan for surveillance of oral diseases, conditions and behaviors. There has never been a comprehensive national oral health surveillance plan, HHS said.

This project starts a process that aims for a coordinated and integrated approach for data that is "vital" to create an oral health "report card," track oral health inequalities, initiate public health action and guide state- and national-level policy to improve oral health. Better use of data and dissemination of findings are important aspects of this initiative.

Initial steps involve convening a panel of experts to examine the characteristics of current oral health surveillance, discuss the spectrum of data needed and suggest strategies; prioritize and create a plan of action, and develop a memorandum of understanding to facilitate and guide the work and outline areas of responsibility.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health; HHS contact Dr. William Kohn at, Dr. Isabel Garcia at or Dr. Bruce Dye at

Review of Innovative State Medicaid Dental Programs

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has begun a review of state-reported dental data and requested input from external partners to help CMS identify Medicaid dental programs of interest. The review includes dental programs that have implemented innovative strategies that increased access to dental care.

Information is being gathered from reviews performed in eight states with innovative practices and/or higher dental utilization rates. CMS will share information from these reviews with other states for the purpose of improving the overall delivery of dental services throughout all Medicaid programs. The focus area: increase access to care and eliminate oral health disparities.

"CMS considers access to dental care for our beneficiaries a priority," says the HHS initiative.

(Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; HHS contact Dr. Conan Davis at

National Study on an Oral Health Initiative

The National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine will assess the current oral health care system, examine preventive oral care interventions, their use and promotion, explore ways of improving health literacy for oral health, and review elements of a potential Department of Health and Human Services oral health initiative.

"The 'Initiative' study will assess the current oral health system, taking into account recent evaluations and prior recommendations; examine preventive care interventions, their use and promotion, including greater health literacy; and review elements of a national oral health initiative encompassing regulations, statutes, programs, research, data, financing and policy," says the HHS description of the IOM study.

"A final report and recommendations to the Department will be available in draft form on March 31, 2011. The report will propose short-term and long-term activities for the Secretary of HHS and the HRSA administrator to consider implementing an HHS Oral Health Initiative; include a strategic plan and a way to evaluate and support an oral health initiative; and recommend messages and a strategy to increase the visibility of existing HHS oral health activities and improve awareness of oral health services available to the public."

(Health Resources and Services Administration; HHS contact Jeffery Johnston at

National Study on Oral Health Access to Services

The National Academies' National Research Council and Institute of Medicine through collaborative efforts between the Board on Children, Youth and Families and the Board on Health Care Services will study the oral health system of care with particular focus on issues that disproportionately impact the underserved who are most vulnerable to oral disease and the public and private safety net providers intended to serve them.

The access study will assess the current U.S. oral health system of care, exploring its strengths, weaknesses and future challenges; describing a desired vision for how oral health care for these populations should be addressed by public and private providers focusing on safety net programs serving populations across the lifecycle specifically women and children.

A final report and recommendations will be issued by Aug. 29, 2011.

(Health Resources and Services Administration HHS contact Dr. Mark Nehring at

The Early Childhood Caries Initiative

Dental caries is a significant problem for American Indians and Alaska Natives of all ages but the magnitude of the problem is greatest among very young children. To reduce the burden of dental disease, age-specific prevention programs must be developed and targeted at those at highest risk.

The IHS Division of Oral Health developed and is implementing and expanding the reach of an Early Childhood Caries Initiative to promote prevention and early intervention of dental caries in young children through an interdisciplinary approach.

The initiative includes early oral health assessments by community partners such as Head Start; the Women, Infants, and Children Program; nurses, physicians and community health representatives; fluoride varnish application by these community partners and dental teams; dental sealants on primary teeth at an early age by dental teams; use of interim therapeutic restorations to reduce the need for children to go to an operating room to receive dental treatment; and establishment of a national oral health surveillance system to measure the initiative's impact.

(Indian Health Service; HHS contact Dr. Chris Halliday at

Clinical and Translational Science Program

The NIH National Center for Research Resources is supporting and promoting an effort to build a national dental consortium research infrastructure network. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided funding for development of a Web-accessible clinical research toolkit to be used by investigators to facilitate the standardization of dental research across the consortium of dental schools/programs.

The nation's progress against oral disease will be accelerated by rigorous clinical studies whose outcomes have the potential to fundamentally change dental practice and improve oral health, says the HHS initiative.

This project, part of NCRR's clinical translational science award program, will help ensure that new discoveries lead to improved public health by reducing the time it takes for laboratory discoveries to become treatments for patients, engage communities in clinical research, and train future clinical and translational researchers.

(National Institutes of Health; HHS Contact Dr. Renee Joskow at

A Cultural Competency E-learning Continuing Education Program for Oral Health Professionals

In response to "the pervasive nature of oral health disparities," the HHS Office of Minority Health will launch a cultural competency e-learning oral health continuing education program in 2010 that will target oral health disparities.

This Web-based project will be evidence-based in nature and will include needs assessment focus groups, extensive literature reviews and the input from experts in the field who will serve on a national project advisory committee.

The OHM has developed a cultural competency training program in an effort to ensure that all people entering the health care system receive "equitable and effective treatment."

(Office of Minority Health; HHS contact Guadalupe Pacheco at

Oral Health as Part of Women's Health Across the Lifespan

The Office on Women's Health has developed and as "two of the most reliable online and offline information resources on women's and girls' health." Neither website represents commercial interest and both provide information on a wide range of health issues.

"In its new role supporting the HHS Oral Health Initiative, the Office on Women's Health will set out to change the perception of oral health's impact on overall health by incorporating accurate oral health information into existing OWH educational programs for health professionals and the public.

"Avenues for enhanced messaging include the OWH national network in support of the Text4baby (Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies) initiative, National Women's Health Week, BodyWorks and Best Bones Forever Programs, and the Quick Health Data Online toolkit. OWH also will work with regional programs to highlight oral health activities."

(The Office on Women's Health; HHS contact Dr. Marian Mehegan at