Despite having oral health coverage, less than 40% of Medicaid-eligible children had any dental visit in 2013.
WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) programs are a well-known and trusted community resource, providing services to families with young children, the underserved, and vulnerable populations that are likely to have high dental disease rates and lack access to preventive oral health services.
Timeliness is a key factor when considering the delivery of oral health counseling and preventive services, and WIC clinics encounter pregnant women and very young children at opportune times when families are open to counseling and can receive services before the onset of disease. Thus, their public health nutrition mission includes oral health education to WIC families and referrals to dental services.
From February through December 2016, Altarum Institute partnered with Michigan WIC, McMillen Health, and Delta Dental Foundation to implement a WIC-oral health pilot project in urban Detroit. Staff in 5 of the busiest WIC clinics in Michigan (who see about 10% of the state's WIC participation of children and infants) received training to integrate oral health education and dental referrals into the nutrition education provided to mothers with young children. In these visits, families received oral health education appropriate to their child's age and resources (toothbrush, floss, etc.) as well as a referral to a dentist based on zip code.
Driven by this quick and early success, Delta Dental Foundation has funded an expansion of this pilot to an additional 16 clinics in Detroit, outer Wayne County, Kent County, and Oakland County, while continuing to support the five clinics from the initial pilot year. The Year 2 WIC pilot expansion clinics will include an additional 20% of the state's WIC participation, making our expected impact of a 2-year pilot significant in its reach among children and infants.