School-based oral health prevention programs are an effective way to mitigate dental disease in children. Research has shown that school-based programs can reduce dental disease by 50 percent, remove barriers to care and decrease missed education time. They also ensure that children receive recommended preventative care such as sealants, which are 80 percent effective in preventing dental disease.
To reduce oral health disparities in children, The Duke Endowment is helping school-based oral health programs expand to ensure that vulnerable children have access to essential dental care. We are also investing in advocacy and policy efforts that will incentivize the proliferation of sustainable school-based oral health programs throughout the Carolinas.
While school-based programs are effective, they haven’t been widely replicated due to the complexities of integrating them within the education system and the challenges of establishing a sustainable business model. To better understand these hurdles, The Duke Endowment funded a case study of eight programs to evaluate their comparative effectiveness and viability for replication. These pilots taught us that while it is possible to develop a sustainable and scalable model for providing dental services within schools, new programs would need extensive technical assistance and capacity building before implementation.
In 2018, we partnered with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield foundations in both Carolinas to launch the school-based Oral Health Expansion Initiative. We used the Medical University of South Carolina’s College of Dental Medicine and East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine for technical assistance and ongoing consulting with grantees.
The state implementation teams developed 15 web-based didactic training modules and consolidated various templates and resources on an online portal. Each grantee is required to participate in a nine-month readiness phase with the state implementation teams to ensure that they have an advanced clinical care plan, a viable business plan, and adequate financial and clinical data reporting capabilities. Once participants complete the readiness phase, they are eligible to apply to the Endowment for a two-year implementation grant.