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Improve Dental Health BrightSMILES Gives $1.5 Million To Improve Dental Health

Improve Dental Health BrightSMILES Gives $1.5 Million To Improve Dental Health

In the library of Hagginwood Elementary School in Sacramento today, Sierra Health Foundation and dental health experts issued four statements of importance to the people of northern California relating to the state of dental health -- a long-time neglected issue gaining rapid attention at the local, state and federal levels. Before and after the press event, dental health professionals working with the Sacramento Dental Sealants in Schools Project screened a class of second-graders for cavities and gum disease.

Len McCandliss, President of Sierra Health Foundation said,

As a northern California grantmaker, we have spent a great deal of time in all kinds of communities in our funding region. In our identification and examination of health, time and time again we have seen an extreme need for improved and expanded access to preventive dental health education and services. Thirty-one percent of preschool children will experience tooth decay and up to 80 percent of that tooth decay will remain untreated -- think about what that means, as these kids enter school, adolescence, the work force, adulthood, etc... - the implications are significant.

In response to these needs, the Board of Sierra Health Foundation released $500,000 in special funding, and created a dental health partnership called brightSMILES. This new program has proved to be a catalyst for an increase in awareness of the dental health problems of northern Californians, and has drawn additional dollars into the region, said McCandliss. We are extremely pleased to announce that The California Endowment has committed an additional $1 million to brightSMILES affording the brightSMILES Partnership the opportunity to support a greater number of projects and make a much larger impact on the quality of life of northern Californians. The Endowment, too, has a true understanding of the seriousness of this problem - in addition to their funding of brightSMILES, they have committed large resources to dental health prevention, mainly fluoridation programs, in the past.

Speaking on behalf of The California Endowment, Mario Gutierrez, Senior Program Officer for the northern California regional office said,

The California Endowment's $1 million contribution to brightSMILES will effectively triple the number of grants awarded through this program increasing the availability of community-based, oral health services within Sierra's 26 county funding region, and will expand the program's scope to an additional six northern California coastal counties.

A first round proposal review and funding cycle has just been completed, the results of which will fund nine separate northern California programs in Sacramento, Placer, Yuba, San Joaquin, Yolo, Calaveras, Trinity, Shasta and Modoc/Siskiyou/Lassen counties, totaling $805,781.

A second round Request for Proposal cycle which includes an expanded funding region was announced, as well as information about the U.S. Surgeon General's upcoming Report on Oral Health in the United States. The Surgeon General's report, due to be released after the first of the year, will demonstrate the critical relationships among oral health and general health and well-being. Dr. Jared Fine, Chairman of the Dental Health Foundation, led a poignant discussion about the exceedingly high number of young children suffering from poor dental health in California as compared to the number of children suffering in other states across the country. Dr. Fine is involved with several coalitions who are working with the Office of the Surgeon General on the Report, and on a National Conference scheduled for April, 2000, devoted to improving dental health in the United States.

Tim Comstock, Executive Director of the California Dental Association stated that,

The need for dental care, especially in rural areas, is all too real. Less than half of the children under the age of 5 in rural California have ever visited a dentist. All of CDA's 32 local dental societies provide community outreach programs, many involving children, equating to tens of thousands of hours of pro-bono services - but even this is not enough. With the participation of Sierra Health Foundation, and the California Endowment, we feel confident that other organizations will recognize the need to focus on the dental health of Californians, and we will begin to see some real progress in the area of improved dental health.

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Author Notes:

Victor Nessbit contributes and publishes news editorial to  Everything you need to know to get a whiter, brighter smile!

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