HopeHealth receives funding to expand dental services in local schools
A new planning grant to HopeHealth aims to expand dental care in rural and underserved schools in Clarendon, Florence, and Williamsburg Counties. HopeHealth is one of 12 organizations to receive $65,000 in funding from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation and the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation. HopeHealth will then be eligible to apply for a two-year implementation grants from The Duke Endowment next spring.
Over 4.1 million Carolinians, including many children, live in a designated dental professional shortage area. School-based programs provide care to children who might not otherwise have access to oral health professionals. These programs eliminate other barriers, such as transportation issues and time away from school and work for appointments.
School-aged children are particularly affected by poor oral health, and tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children. Oral health problems and pain affect performance at school and are the top reason for school absences in low-resourced communities. Research finds that dental pain has a similar, if not greater, impact on children’s quality of life than acute asthma. Poor oral health in children is associated with increased shyness, feelings of worthlessness, unhappiness, and reduced friendliness.
“Dental disease is largely preventable when consistent measures are taken to ensure that children have access to oral health care,” said Renee Anderson, director of practice performance and dental services. “We know that programs based in schools are effective but have not been widely replicated in our region. Bringing these programs to Clarendon, Florence, and Williamsburg counties will provide students with needed dental care in safe, convenient, and accessible locations.”
The grant enables HopeHealth to plan school-based oral health programs that prioritize preventive services (such as regular cleanings) and address certain restorative treatments (including fillings) for school-aged children and will begin in Clarendon County, said Anderson. Over six months, grantees will work with technical assistance providers to understand the practice model, assess organizational capacity, and develop implementation plans. Other grantees include health departments, safety-net providers, and non-profit organizations.
“School-based programs are designed to remove barriers by meeting children where they spend much of their days and to help ensure they are healthy, pain-free, and ready to learn,” said Stacy Warren, program officer for health care at The Duke Endowment. “We are proud to support HopeHealth in expanding dental care for children living in rural and underserved areas with few or no treatment options.”
“We know that early intervention can be very powerful in affecting health outcomes overall. An increased focus on promoting good oral health habits and improving oral health status, especially for children most at risk of poor oral health, can have profound consequences for long-term health status,” said Erika Kirby, executive director of the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation.
The grants are part of a multi-year collaboration between three southeastern philanthropies to address oral health in the state, with an early focus on school-aged children. This funding follows grants provided in November 2018 to 10 organizations that have since received additional support to expand oral health services in 79 elementary, middle, and high schools during the 2019-2020 academic year.
“All sectors must work together to prevent oral disease in North and South Carolina and ensure more access to much-needed care,” said Katie Eyes, vice president, program and strategy at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation. “Such collaboration will have a significant and lasting influence for generations to come.”
HopeHealth is one of 23 nonprofit, federally qualified health centers in South Carolina. We provide quality and affordable health care services to individuals in Florence, Clarendon, and Williamsburg Counties and infectious diseases services in Aiken, Clarendon, Florence, Orangeburg, and Williamsburg Counties. To become a patient, call 843-667-9414 or visit hope-health.org.
To learn more about the School-based Oral Health Expansion Program, visit: