The Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry, Temple University, is launching Project ENGAGE, a $1.75 million initiative designed to improve children’s access to oral health care.
Temple is partnering with UnitedHealthcare, United Health Foundation, and the state of Pennsylvania to deliver care to North Philadelphia children under age six and their families who are enrolled in the state’s Medicaid plan. The goal is to eventually expand the initiative to other parts of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the United States.
“This project will pair community health workers with families, including pregnant women, to help them find a dental home, remove barriers to care and provide education in a language they can understand, all while coordinating care with Temple’s clinic,” says Amid Ismail, B.D.S., M.P.H., M.B.A., Dr.P.H., Dean of The Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry, who developed the idea for Project ENGAGE. “We want to try to manage disease rather than just treat it.”
Less than 30% of children under age six living in the five zip codes surrounding Kornberg’s North Philadelphia campus have access to proper dental care, according to a Temple news release, often because of a lack of awareness of the importance of oral health, limited transportation, and access to qualified dental care providers. Dr. Ismail says the goal of Project ENGAGE is to increase that access to at least 60%, and he expects to serve around 1,000 children.
Project ENGAGE will create an oral health registry that will use dental claims information and operating and emergency department histories to identify children most at risk of developing health issues as a result of tooth decay. The program will also provide training for primary care physicians to encourage preventive screenings and to apply dental varnish while also giving general dentists who do not currently provide dental care for young children the support and information necessary.
Project ENGAGE will be designed to assess and achieve the Dental Quality Alliance measures that focus on utilization, access, diagnosis of disease, prevention, provision of treatment and continuity of care indicators. The project will be the first to implement the International Caries Classification and Management System that incorporates the Caries Management by Risk Assessment philosophy and the principles of prevention and tooth preservation in managing dental caries as a disease process.
“By combining Temple University’s clinical expertise with UnitedHealthcare’s extensive claims information, we are promoting oral health, expanding access to care, and reducing the prevalence of dental disease,” says Michael Weitzner, D.M.D., M.S., Vice President of UnitedHealthcare Dental. “We have the unique opportunity to enhance the health delivery system and improve health outcomes for thousands of children in Pennsylvania.”
United Health Foundation is providing a $1 million grant for Project ENGAGE and UnitedHealthcare will donate $750,000.
Pennsylvania’s Office of Medical Assistance Programs in the Department of Public Welfare has been helping to develop and support Project ENGAGE since 2010, says Paul Westerberg, D.D.S., M.B.A., Chief Dental Officer. Dr. Westerberg says the state office sees Project ENGAGE as a prime example of the type of public-private partnerships promoted in the Surgeon General’s “Oral Health in America” and subsequent “National Call to Action to Promote Oral Health” reports to improve the oral health status of those who still suffer disproportionately from oral diseases.
Project ENGAGE is expected to begin this fall.