Project Abstract Summary
The Georgia Department of Public Health Oral Health Program (OHP) delivers oral health prevention services, provides statewide surveillance of oral disease, collaborates and builds internal and external local, state, and national level partnerships, develops policies, and provides evaluation of processes and outcomes to improve the oral health status of Georgians. The state OHP helps support and facilitate prevention oral health services through 18 health districts encompassing 159 counties. With help of partners, the OHP has achieved significant successes. The OHP along with the Georgia Oral Health Coalition (GOHC) met all the 2012 Oral Health Plan goals and objectives, and legislative changes increasing availability of preventive oral health services passed in 2017.
The OHP conducts evidenced-based oral health education, screening, sealants, and referrals for schools. The OHP provides fluoridation training and monitoring with assistance from the Georgia Rural Water Association (GRWA). The OHP Fluoridation Specialist will continue technical assistance and education for water plant operators to maintain 96% of those on community water systems have access to fluoridation while also improving optimal level system reporting. With support of the Maternal and Child Epidemiology Section, OHP will update the Oral Health Surveillance plan as well as develop and maintain a state surveillance system that will be used to guide programmatic decision making.
The burden of oral disease in Georgia is unequally distributed across different subpopulation groups. These disparate groups have been identified and through a new communication plan, OHP will continue to reach these at-risk populations. The expected long-term outcomes for the OHP include: (1) improved access to preventive services in schools, (2) increased proportion of adults and children with access to dental care, (3) increased proportion of Georgians with access to community water systems who receive optimally fluoridated water, (4) maintaining an oral health surveillance system in order to collect and report data to stakeholders, (5) reduced dental caries and oral health disparities across the state.
The OHP program includes staff with the background and the capacity to implement all performance measures. The school based sealant program has begun to strategize ways to target rural low income schools. Communication strategies will be implemented to educate Georgia communities on the benefits of Community Water Fluoridation and school sealant programs. To enhance health systems and access to clinical preventive services, OHP will continue to partner. The OHP will increase oral health surveillance and dissemination during the 2018-2023 grant years with a full-time Epidemiologist. All performance will be evaluated with a full-time Evaluator. A communication plan will be developed with the assistance of the DPH Communications team.
The State and district oral heath staff have worked successfully alongside chronic disease staff and created connections to external partners including cross participating on various coalitions and work groups. The OHP is in the final stages of completing a CDC collaborative grant with the DPH Tobacco Program team and plans to build upon this foundation focus of pregnancy tobacco cessation by expanding to a broader reach of oral health and medical providers addressing tobacco screening/cessation to women of childbearing age. This medical dental integration aspect will also facilitate a bi-directional referral system increasing the number of patients directed to a long term comprehensive care medical or dental home.