Grantee Blog 2020

Achieving a Sustainable “Dental Home” System at JFK Elementary School

JFK elementary school reopened – remotely — earlier this month. A plan for opening on a hybrid basis in October is in the works. The Jamesburg Action Group for pre-k parents met once and now is planning fall and winter activities. Soon, we will meet with JFK’s Curriculum Supervisor to discuss the enhanced pre-k dental education program that is the subject of this grant. (A science module for the dental curriculum was outlined in our last blog).

In addition to these ongoing efforts, we also must consider program sustainability. How can we infuse the “dental home” concept into the school and the community to make sure that the program endures? Some of our ideas about stakeholder involvement are:

Engaging Stakeholders – our pre-k parents and the wider community. We plan to engage a cadre of advocates to publicize the dental program and its benefits. UWCJ’s Family Advocate in Jamesburg will post program information on the school website. The town government, town librarian, and other representatives have expressed their support for JAG, and we will solicit their advice and input as the dental program progresses. With the help of JFK’s Curriculum Supervisor, we plan to not only update the dental curriculum, but also add fun and educational dental health videos that parents and children can access at any time. This could be a precursor to familiarizing parents with telehealth as a method of service delivery.

Our parents are, of course, crucial to program success. We plan to work with parents from the JAG group, and add new members steadily through the year. When parents engage in dental learning with their children, they help insure that their entire families will start to routinely practice preventive dental behaviors. Parents also will help us make sure that our plans are culturally sensitive, and that we have considered all of the factors that might discourage residents from seeking dental care.

Parents can help publicize the program and they can advocate for services that would make dental care more accessible, such as mobile dental vans, or establishing a mini dental clinic within the school. In the future, parents and town representatives could lobby for improved support services in areas such as Medicaid eligibility and reimbursement; dental insurance for low income children; and assistance from state agencies such as the Department of Health to improve dental health services for underprivileged children.

Engaging Stakeholders – dental health professionals. We plan to seek alliances with the American Dental Association, the New Jersey Dental Association (which is headquartered nearby) and the Hispanic Dental Association located in south Jersey, to help us locate dedicated dentists, dental hygienists and dental assistants to provide services to the students. We also will seek their help in planning how best to deliver dental services to this community, and in providing informational materials for us.

Jamesburg is located not far from Rutgers University, Princeton University and community and technical colleges. We plan to explore the possibility of working with dentists, dental residents, and other dental health workers from these institutions to help us provide “safety net” services for Jamesburg. Both dental health professionals and those in training

About the Grantee

United Way of Central Jersey

The United Way of Central Jersey provides leadership to create opportunities for a better life for people living or working in our community who are needy, at risk and vulnerable. We achieve this by mobilizing people,organizations and financial resources to create and sustain programs that achieve targeted outcomes and lasting change through volunteerism, partnerships,services and advocacy.