As both a member of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, and the Chair of the First 5 Sacramento Commission, I would like to begin by thanking Dr. Pan for his efforts to place a spot light on Oral Health.
The gap between dental health care needs and the provision of services is dramatic, and the negative impact on young children is alarming.
In a report funded by the First 5 Commission titled, “Children Deserve Better,” found that in 2008, only 20% of children eligible for Denti-Cal through Sacramento County’s Geographic Managed Care system were accessing care, compared to 40% statewide.
The good news is, things are getting better. The State Department of Health Care Services’ most recent statistics show that 31% of children are now accessing care. The bad news is Sacramento County’s children are still lagging by about 20% compared to the rest of the State.
The really bad news is 69% are not accessing care at all. This needs to change.
First 5 Sacramento has been addressing this issue head on. Efforts include:
- Working with the State Department of Health Care Services and its GMC contractors to make improvements to the system. This includes solving barriers that make access difficult to for families to navigate. We are also demanding that the State Department hold their contractors accountable and implement consequences for non-performance.
- Public Education – Many parents need basic information about their children’s dental hygiene. They also need to understand the importance of getting their children to the dentist on a regular basis. The very first visit should occur by the “first tooth or the first birthday.”
- Prevention – First 5 funds the County’s Smile Keepers Van. This mobile service provides dental screenings, fluoride varnishing and education to over 6,000 children ages five and under each year. The service is provided at preschool settings and health fairs throughout the County.
- Children’s Dental Clinics – The Commission has funded the construction costs for five children’s dental clinics, including the one here at the Oak Park Community Center operated by The Effort. Two others include The Efforts North Highlands Clinic and the Sacramento Native American Health Center’s clinic located in mid-town. Things are looking good for The Effort to open their third clinic this summer in South Sacramento, followed by a fourth clinic in the Rancho Cordova area sometime in 2013.
- Water Fluoridation – this is one of the First 5 Commission’s highest priorities. Soon, the Sacramento County Water Agency will complete their project later this year which will mean about 75% of the County’s residents will have fluoridated water. In addition, the Commission is now working with Golden State Water Company to fluoridate the water in the Arden-Arcade and Rancho Cordova Areas.
Thank you to Dr. Pan for his attention to this matter. I would also like to acknowledge Senator Steinberg’s leadership. Lastly, I would like to thank the First 5 staff, particularly Debra Payne, for her tireless efforts over the past several years to improve children’s dental health. We are making a difference in the health and well-being our community’s children.