Temple University's Kornberg School of Dentistry, with support from
UnitedHealthcare and United Health Foundation, today launched Project
ENGAGE, an initiative designed to improve children's oral health and
address one of the greatest unmet health needs for young people in
Pennsylvania and nationwide.
Project ENGAGE will work with Philadelphia children under 6 and their
families who are enrolled in the state's Medicaid plan, including the
UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Pennsylvania. The goal is to expand
the initiative to other parts of the state and country.
The new program will improve children's oral health by creating an oral
health registry that will use dental claims information and operating
and emergency department histories to identify children most at risk of
developing any health issues as a result of tooth decay. Community
health workers will provide these children and their families, including
siblings and pregnant women, with information, counseling and assistance
in scheduling dental appointments. Public health dental hygienists will
also be available to provide in-home care and additional treatments,
such as fluoride varnishes and sealants.
"Temple University is excited to work with UnitedHealthcare and United
Health Foundation to address the challenges and issues related to the
oral health care of children in our state," said Amid Ismail, dean of
the Kornberg School of Dentistry. "By creating this oral health registry
and the associated intervention programs, we are creating an innovative
model that will improve the health and well-being of thousands of
children and their families."
Tooth decay is an infectious disease that ranks as the most common
chronic condition during childhood; it is five times more prevalent in
children than asthma, according to the American Academy of Pediatric
Dentistry. If left untreated, tooth decay can cause infections and
illness, and affect the development of permanent teeth.
Currently, fewer than 30 percent of the children under 6 living in the
five zip codes (19121, 19122, 19132, 19133 and 19140) surrounding the
Kornberg School of Dentistry's North Philadelphia campus have access to
proper oral health care, often due to lack of awareness of the
importance of oral health, limited transportation and access to
qualified dental care providers. One of the program's goals is to
increase that access and reach at least 60 percent of the children.
Project ENGAGE is being funded with a $1 million grant from United
Health Foundation and another $750,000 from UnitedHealthcare. Temple
University will work together to create the registry and coordinate the
interventions to families, with assistance from UnitedHealthcare.
"The neighborhoods served by Project ENGAGE have the highest
cost-of-care for children's dental care in Pennsylvania, in part because
the parents of these children tend to seek dental care only when it's an
emergency and then seek that care at a hospital, which can be
expensive," Ismail said. "We need to shift the dental care from when the
children have a problem to before the problem starts."
The program will also provide training for primary care physicians to
encourage preventive screenings and to apply dental varnish, while also
giving general dentists who do not currently provide dental care for
very young children the support and information needed to care for
children. Studies show that children should begin seeing a dentist
before their first birthday. In many cases, dental referrals for young
children come through primary care physicians, helping to catch diseases
early and perhaps avoid a lifetime of dental disease and other health
"By combining Temple University's clinical expertise with
UnitedHealthcare's extensive claims information, we will promote oral
health, expand access to care and reduce the prevalence of dental
disease," said Michael Weitzner, DMD, MS, vice president,
UnitedHealthcare Dental. "We have the unique opportunity to enhance the
health delivery system and improve health outcomes for thousands of
children in Pennsylvania."
Project ENGAGE builds on the success of other oral health initiatives
created by UnitedHealthcare for Medicaid plans. In New York, New Jersey
and Mississippi, UnitedHealthcare organizes the Early Childhood Caries
program, which encourages primary care physicians to perform oral health
screenings on very young children. The program has helped enhance
preventive care, with nearly 90 percent of children that were referred
to a general dentist after a physician screening receiving preventive
services such as a cleaning or fluoride treatment.
"United Health Foundation is grateful for the opportunity to support
Project ENGAGE, which will serve as an important resource for improving
the oral health of children and families," said Kate Rubin, president of
United Health Foundation.
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About United Health Foundation
by a passion to help people live healthier lives, United Health
Foundation provides helpful information to support decisions that lead
to better health outcomes and healthier communities. The Foundation also
supports activities that expand access to quality health care services
for those in challenging circumstances and partners with others to
improve the well-being of communities. After its establishment by
UnitedHealth Group [NYSE: UNH] in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private
foundation, the Foundation has committed more than $200 million to
improve health and health care. For additional information, please visit www.unitedhealthfoundation.org.
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Preston Moretz, 215-204-4380