The Henry Schein Cares Foundation (HSCF), in partnership with the UPS Foundation, has launched the second phase of its Wearing Is Caring campaign, which focuses on raising awareness about the connection between oral health and systemic wellness.
Poor oral health has been found to negatively impact overall health and is significantly associated with chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, and stroke, according to the HSCF.
To raise awareness about the issue, the HSCF is supporting select local Special Olympics programs in Louisiana, Georgia, and Mississippi with funding toward Special Olympics Healthy Athletes programs, which provide health screenings and education in eight different disciplines including oral health for Special Olympics athletes. These types of programs offer an integrated “total health” model, the HSCF said.
Special Olympics Special Smiles, the dentistry portion of the Healthy Athletes program, fills a need for people with intellectual disabilities (ID) and offers a complete dental history, education about the importance of good oral hygiene habits, and a dental exam.
At Special Smiles, trained clinicians assess several indicators of oral health including mouth pain, untreated tooth decay, and gingival signs. They provide treatment, mouthguards, fluoride varnish as needed, and referrals for follow-up care. After athletes received care through Special Smiles:
- 67% no longer had mouth pain
- 25% no longer had untreated tooth decay
- 30% no longer needed urgent referrals
Special Smiles is integrated within the broader Healthy Athletes program, offering children and adults with ID holistic healthcare, which improves patient outcomes and reduces the overall cost of care.
In addition to the athletes receiving care, there are benefits for participating healthcare students and professions. Through training and hands-on experience at screenings, students and professionals increase their knowledge of best practices in caring for, and communicating with, people with ID, which advances cultural competency and reduces health equity gaps.
“As we continue to advocate for public health, health equity, and wellness through the Wearing Is Caring campaign, we are delighted to strengthen expanded access to oral healthcare provided through integrated models of care delivery, particularly for people with disabilities,” said Stanley M. Bergman, chairman of the board and CEO of Henry Schein.
“Together with Special Olympics, we will work to enhance access to essential healthcare for people with intellectual disabilities, with a focus on oral health, which is such a critical component to achieving good overall health,” Bergman said.
“People with intellectual disabilities are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and face inequities in all areas of healthcare, especially oral health,” said Dr. Alicia Bazzano, chief health officer of Special Olympics.
“Thanks to the generous donation from Henry Schein, we can prioritize the distribution of face coverings to Special Olympics programs that are in most need of critical healthcare resources and further advocate a total health model that integrates oral health and overall health,” Bazzano said. “In addition, we can help close the gap in preventive health education and services to help ensure inclusive healthcare is a reality.”
The campaign launched in October 2020 in support of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation’s Crush COVID initiative to reinforce the benefits of wearing face coverings. Its face coverings come in a variety of styles and sizes, with messages tailored to each phase of the campaign.
Complementing the HSCF campaign and aligning with the CDC Foundation’s initiative, Henry Schein will donate and distribute cloth face coverings to support Healthy Athletes programs in targeted Southern states. As a result, athletes with ID who typically receive dental care through Special Smiles will have the protection they need to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19 through the Wearing Is Caring campaign.
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