Ostrow School receives $18.4 million grant
The Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC will receive nearly $18.4 million from the nonprofit organization First 5 LA to support dental care outreach to young children. The grant, which is the largest in the school’s history, will enable the school’s Community Oral Health Programs to help nearly 46,000 disadvantaged children and their families over the next five years.
Established in 1998, First 5 LA oversees the Los Angeles County’s allocation of funds from Proposition 10, which added a 50-cent tax on tobacco products sold in California. The funds help to pay for health care, education and development programs for children from the prenatal stage to age 5 and their families. The organization aims to increase the number of children who are physically and emotionally healthy, safe and ready to learn.
The programs established and expanded by the grant will implement oral health education and oral disease prevention programs; assess dental treatment needs; assist families that enroll in insurance programs; contribute to the operation of two community dental clinics and provide sedation services at those sites; conduct dental public health research; and train dentists and other health care professionals in providing preventive services and dental care to young children.
“Improving children’s dental health in LA County has been a major priority for First 5 LA,” said Kim Belshé, executive director of the organization.
Of special importance is the goal to help children and their families find “dental homes” — affordable dental offices that families will visit regularly for care and prevention, said Roseann Mulligan, associate dean for Community Health Programs and Hospital Affairs at the Ostrow School.
Mulligan noted that the impact of poor dental health on children in Los Angeles is very significant. An earlier Ostrow School study found that nearly 73 percent of disadvantaged children in LA have active caries — the disease responsible for tooth decay. Another USC study found that children who reported having recent tooth pain were four times more likely to have a low GPA and missed significantly more school each year than children without dental problems.
“If we can give families with young children information about oral health and help them locate dental homes, we can use education and prevention to stop disease before it starts instead of repairing the damage,” Mulligan said.
Achieving this goal will involve diverse teams of dental professionals, other health professionals, “promotora” lay health educators, social workers and benefits enrollment experts. Many team members will be faculty, staff, and students from USC.
Funds will also be used to operate a dental clinic at the Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center coordinated by the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) for children in foster care. The clinic will serve approximately 15,000 children who receive medical care through the VIP, which evaluates and treats victims of family violence and sexual assault. The grant will also provide funds for the Ostrow School to develop and implement a sedation program at a dental clinic run by the St. John’s Well Child & Family Center.
Various educational outreach efforts will be funded by the grant, including programs to teach primary care physicians and nurses to spot potential oral health problems and programs to educate general dentists on the special dental issues that very young children can have.
The Ostrow School’s Pediatric Dentistry postdoctoral residency program will admit two additional residents each year who will serve in the school’s affiliated community clinics and hospitals during their residency.