UCLA to Lead Pediatric Preventive Care Expansion Program

Dentistry Today
Courtesy of the UCLA School of Dentistry.

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Courtesy of the UCLA School of Dentistry.

The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) will lead a pilot program to expand preventive dental care for 500,000 Los Angeles children enrolled in Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid healthcare program. It will be the largest of 15 such county and community programs approved by the state’s Department of Health Care Services as part of the Medi-Cal 2020 Dental Transformation Initiative, running through December 2020. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services report that only about a third of the state’s 6.1 million children and adolescents enrolled in Medi-Cal receive preventive dental care each year. The UCLA program will focus on 3 primary goals: using information technology to enhance the quality and continuity of care; developing new ways to expand preventive services both within clinics and community settings; and integrating oral healthcare services across dental, medical, and community providers.

“The Dental Transformation Initiative provides an incredible opportunity to expand UCLA’s recent work with local community partners to improve the oral health of children at greatest risk for dental disease throughout Los Angeles County,” said James Crall, DDS, MS, ScD, project director, professor of public health and community dentistry, and director of the UCLA-First 5 LA Oral Health Program.

“Our First 5 LA-funded work has demonstrated the power of combining resources from the university and community partners to address challenges that require collaborative solutions,” said Crall. “Given that one quarter of all California children enrolled in Medi-Cal live in Los Angeles County, we clearly need to engage more critical stakeholders to create the meaningful system changes that will truly transform oral healthcare for children on Medi-Cal.”

“This is an excellent opportunity for UCLA Dentistry to further engage the Los Angeles community and improve oral healthcare for generations to come,” said Paul Krebsbach, DDS, PhD, dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry. “This program is on par with our broader vision for the dental school to get our student dentists, residents, and faculty members providing dental services to underserved Angelenos.”

The dental school also will seek partnerships with Los Angeles County agencies, organizations, and community programs focused on improving the health and well-being of children and families. Awards for the 15 selected local dental pilot projects led by UCLA will total $150 million over 4 years. Each of these projects is unique and uses local entities to leverage existing infrastructure to address the oral health needs of their respective communities.

For example, the Sacramento County Division of Public Health’s “Every Smile Counts!” program will use $10 million in grant funding to build dental services capacity for children and bridge the gap between dental care and primary care in systems currently used by low-income families. It also will work with the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry to provide virtual dental homes using teledentistry equipment at local schools.

Also, the Cavity Free Sonoma program from the Sonoma County Department of Health Services will work with Santa Rosa Junior College’s community health worker certification program to deploy workers to 10 community health centers to serve as “Health Coaches” who will conduct oral health assessments of children, coordinate their care with the clinic, educate parents about oral health, and provide encouragement and coaching for children to adopt healthy behaviors. Also, a smartphone app will remind parents about dental appointments and provide access to dental health records and healthcare coverage information.

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