Bulletin of Dental Education

EatMoveGrow: A Partnership for Children

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The Louisiana State University Health New Orleans School of Dentistry (LSUSD) is a partner with The Health Enrichment Network (HEN), a non-profit that helps educators and parents understand the importance of good oral health for children. Funded through a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), EatMoveGrow (EMG), an initiative under the HEN umbrella, connects schools with the necessary tools they need to help children grow up fit and healthy. Lisa Staples, M.P.H., CHES, the LSUSD Oral Health Lead for EMG, helps to coordinate its dental initiative.

Lisa Staples, M.P.H., CHES
LSUSD Oral Health Lead for EMG
Courtesy of LSUSD

EatMoveGrow operates in 23 parishes and is working with more than 40 schools. In addition to dental services, they offer a wide variety of programs, including their healthy lifestyle curriculum, painted play spaces, grants for other healthful initiatives and assistance to help the school cafeteria offer healthy options.

From 2017 to 2020, the organization provided dental services to almost 1,500 children across 16 schools with an estimated value of $127,903. The dental program includes a screening by a dentist, as well as dental sealants and fluoride varnish by a local dental hygienist. EMG works with school nurses if a dental issue is identified and connects the child and their family with a local dental provider.

Previously, Ms. Staples worked as a teacher in Teach for America. “That experience is what drove me to get my Master’s in Public Health,” she says. After receiving her master’s degree from LSU Health School of Public Health, she started with EMG in January 2018. By October of that year, she was working at LSUSD to help facilitate the school-based dental services.

“Access to care is a major issue in rural areas. From 2019 to 2020, 15% of the children who were seen in school dental clinics required urgent care,” she says. EMG cited that 23% of children seen from 2017 to 2020 had decayed molars. In that time, almost 3,200 sealants with an estimated value of $80,000 were placed on children’s teeth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children who don’t, and by the age of eight, more than half of children (52%) have had a cavity in their baby teeth. Studies show that drinking fluoridated water and getting dental sealants helps to avoid dental decay. 

The Louisiana Dental Association is also a part of the effort, helping to identify dentists in rural areas who will provide care to the children, especially those providers who accept Medicaid. Several of LSUSD’s dental and dental hygiene alumni participate in the program.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, EMG-sponsored in-person dental screenings have come to a alt, but virtual tools are available that schools can use to keep children healthy. Looking ahead, EatMoveGrow has a lot planned for Children’s Dental Health Month in February, including virtual events and ways for educators to keep their children healthy and engaged during this time. Visit eatmovegrow.us for more information.

Courtesy of Joanne Courville, M.P.A., LSUSD

Published on January 13, 2021

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