APD Pilots Innovative Oral Health Partnership with WIC
September 13 - This summer, Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital’s Community Health Department piloted an innovative new program in the state of New Hampshire to deliver dental education and screening for families receiving support from the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program. In June, July and August, dental hygienist Mary Davis saw 119 young children from the Grafton County WIC service area to screen for oral health problems, apply fluoride varnish where appropriate, and make referrals for children with urgent dental needs. Perhaps more importantly, she met with 124 families receiving WIC services, educating them on children’s oral health care and strategies for maintaining healthy teeth.
“There are a lot of people who want to get their children to a dentist, but either they can’t find one, or the dentist won’t see their child until they’re three or older,” Davis explains. “A lot of the children I’ve seen had their first oral health screening here, as part of the program.” She saw an average of 12–14 children a day in the three WIC clinics a month she attended.
Kristina Thompson, Nutritionist and Outreach Coordinator at WIC, calls the program “wonderful.” After twelve years with WIC, she says she has seen dental care is really needed. “There’s only so much information we as nutritionists can provide, and to have a professional in showing families how to properly brush a child’s teeth is invaluable. We have such limited time in our clinics and so much to address, having Mary has really been a blessing this summer.”
Susan Wnuk, Director of Community Health and Nutrition Services for the Community Action Program Belknap-Merrimack Counties, Inc. that administers WIC, says “We’re just so pleased with the services that have been provided. It’s been very well received, and the education fits in well with the additional fitness and nutrition information we’ve been giving out in our clinics.”
The program was developed with funds from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, program coordination and funds from APD, and educational materials from the New Hampshire HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) program. In the future, APD hopes to continue working with WIC and its community partners to support these families. “This is really where early intervention needs to happen,” explains Community Health Coordinator Nancy DuMont. “Often in our school-based clinics, we’ll find students who already have tooth decay; the WIC program helps us educate pregnant women and the parents of very young children.”