The UCLA School of Dentistry has been awarded funding of more than $11 million from the Los Angeles–based child advocacy and grant-making organization First 5 LA to expand access to dental care in Los Angeles.
The funds will establish the UCLA–First 5 LA Children's Dental Care Program (CDCP), which will support the delivery of care to children, from birth to age 5, and pregnant women over the next five years. The program will be especially beneficial to those in underserved communities, who are at high risk for dental disease, school officials said.
This new award comes on the heels of the $9.23 million that First 5 LA awarded to the dental school last year, bringing the total amount the school has received from the organization to nearly $21 million over the past 12 months.
"Our goal, over the next five years, is to develop an integrated health-care delivery system that will provide quality, ongoing dental care to underserved young children and pregnant women in Los Angeles communities," said Dr. James J. Crall, project director of the CDCP. "We hope the Children's Dental Care Program will serve as a prototype for transforming the oral health care system for young children throughout Los Angeles County and beyond."
As part of the new program, UCLA faculty members hope to gain a better understanding of the barriers that limit the use of dental care services by underserved groups in order to initiate improvements in care.
"While focusing on dental care for young children, the program is also targeting pregnant women in an effort to provide them with the information and education they need to be able to provide a more positive and healthier approach to oral health for their developing children," Crall said.
The program will roll out four major strategies over the next five years to increase access to oral heath care and improve the quality of care for young children and pregnant women:
• The CDCP will expand the UCLA–First 5 LA 21st-Century Dental Homes Project, a project that established 12 community clinics in the Greater Los Angeles area as "dental home" models of care for young children, in which services are delivered in a continuously accessible and family-centered way by dentists and other health care providers. An additional 10 community clinics will be selected to receive technical assistance and resources to expand their capacity to serve as community-based dental homes, bringing the total number of clinics benefiting from First 5 LA funding and the UCLA School of Dentistry collaboration to 22.
• Second, the CDCP will provide support for capital investments to expand and renovate two community dental clinics in Los Angeles County. One clinic, already identified for expansion, is operated by the San Fernando Community Health Center (SFCHC). The expansion will transform this small, outdated 4-chair facility into a cutting-edge 10-chair dental clinic that can accommodate more than twice the current number of patients and that will integrate oral health services with SFCHC's newly constructed primary care medical clinic.
• Third, the CDCP will develop and employ strategic innovations that address gaps in the current oral health care delivery system in Los Angeles County with the goal of improving system performance. These innovations include the use of health information technology to support outreach activities and risk-based interventions to improve the quality and efficiency of patient care.
• Finally, the CDCP will expand and transform the UCLA School of Dentistry's community-based, service-learning programs for current and future dental and oral health professionals. This includes educational programs for general dentists, pediatric dentists, primary medical care providers and community health workers.
"This is a major investment by First 5 LA in Los Angeles County's oral health care delivery system," said No-Hee Park, dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry. "This funding will impact the oral health of tens of thousands of people for the foreseeable future. Greater access to quality oral health care must be addressed. Developing these improved delivery systems in our underserved communities is the best place to start."
Crall, the CDCP project director, is a professor and chair of the division of public health and community dentistry at the UCLA School of Dentistry, a member of the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities, and project director for the UCLA–First 5 LA 21st-Century Dental Homes Project.
First 5 LA oversees the Los Angeles 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.