USC University of Southern California

First 5 LA Funds New Dental Program for Local Kids

A new $1 million, three-year grant from First 5 LA will enable the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC to provide underprivileged kids with oral health care and help them see a dentist regularly.

The Children’s Health and Maintenance Program, or CHAMP, will travel to Head Start and Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) centers throughout South Los Angeles. There, Ostrow faculty, students, and staff will screen children ages 0-5 for dental problems, administer preventive fluoride treatments, and provide families with oral health education.

Also, to help families find a trusted “dental home” where children can receive regular dental care, the CHAMP team will provide referrals to Ostrow clinics and community dental clinics and train community dental providers on how to care for kids age 5 and under. USC School of Social Work students will also provide follow-up assistance to families, helping them understand and access dental care benefits and overcome other barriers to getting routine dental care.

“Only 25 percent of children eligible for Denti-Cal [California’s public dental benefits program] see a dentist,” said Roseann Mulligan, Associate Dean for Community Oral Health Programs and Hospital Affairs at the Ostrow School of Dentistry. “The earlier we can reach families and get children accustomed to going to a dentist, the more we can prevent disease instead of repairing damage.”

During the first year, the program hopes to screen more than 2000 children and help more than 800 families find regular dental care, Mulligan said.

Mulligan also said CHAMP will greatly benefit Ostrow students, who will gain more experience treating young kids from a variety of backgrounds and learn about working in an interdisciplinary setting with social workers. In addition, USC Social Work students will obtain valuable case management experience in a health care environment.

“By working together with families in neighborhood settings, CHAMP seeks to reengage community members, facilitate improved connections with a dental home, connect families to needed social services, and follow-up to further empower those receiving services,” said Tory Cox, USC School of Social Work Clinical Assistant Professor of Field Education. “At the School of Social Work, we are excited about this collaboration and look forward to working with the Ostrow School of Dentistry in the implementation of this grant.”

First 5  LA oversees the L.A. County allocation of funds from Proposition 10, which added a 50-cent tax on tobacco products sold in California. Funds raised help pay for health care, education and child development programs for children from the prenatal stage to age 5 and their families. First 5 LA’s mission is to increase the number of young children who are physically and emotionally healthy, safe, and ready to learn.