Welcome to the Citizens’ Watch for Kids’ Oral Health Action Update – news and tools you can use to help improve children’s oral health in Washington State. As Year 4 of the campaign is launched, there is an increased commitment to become more active in promoting specific policy solutions. We need to forcefully articulate specific policy goals in order to generate support for our cause.
Public awareness continues to grow about the connection between oral health and overall health, due to the Oral Health campaign and the efforts of the Citizens’ Watch for Kids’ Oral Health.
Baby Teeth campaign launched
In October and November, a campaign was launched to draw attention to the importance of healthy baby teeth. Public service announcements aired statewide with the key message: “First screen by first birthday.” The campaign was initiated because organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry are now urging parents to have their children’s teeth checked by their physician or dentist between six and 12 months of age, or when a baby’s first tooth comes in. Other elements of the campaign included earned media, mailings to physicians’ groups and dentists, and newsletter articles.
A key aspect of the effort is to encourage parents to ask their physician to scan their children’s teeth for early signs of infection or decay. The physicians can then treat the child with fluoride varnish and counsel parents about changes in diet that might reverse the disease. The physician can also refer the child to a dentist if necessary. Getting physicians involved increases the opportunity to detect and prevent oral disease early. A physician sees a child many times for well-child checkups before a child’s first visit to a dentist.
New advertising campaign is being prepared
New print and radio ads are being developed for Year 4. The ads, which will appear during February and March, are intended to draw attention to the problem of oral disease and to identify specific solutions, including the need for increased prevention. The ads will urge readers to support oral health initiatives including fluoridated water, fluoride varnishes and sealants. In January we will forward the print ads and radio copy to coalition members.
Legislative priorities are being developed
We are working with coalition members to finalize legislative priorities for the upcoming session. A key focus will be to urge legislators to support oral disease prevention initiatives, including fluoride. As we did last session, we will work hard to defeat any anti-fluoridation initiatives. We are also exploring opportunities to work jointly with those involved in nutrition advocacy efforts. Good nutrition and good oral health go hand-in-hand. Another focus will be to advocate for a statewide prevention collaborative to focus attention on best practices currently underway in the state. Documenting cost-effective prevention methods helps demonstrate that prevention and early treatment saves money.
Both decisions are important because water fluoridation is a proven and safe method for preventing oral disease. Very young children in Washington have much higher rates of oral disease than the national average. A primary reason is that roughly half of the state’s residents live in a community that has fluoridated water. This is well below the national target of 75%. Fluoride is cost-effective and benefits everyone including seniors, one of the groups most at risk for oral disease.
Help spread the word about the importance of oral health
As the legislative session begins, it’s a good time to draw attention to the need to prevent oral disease. Does your organization need a newsletter article? Could you sign a letter or an opinion piece? How about a presentation on oral health at your next meeting? Now is the time to get started on these activities. We’ll provide any assistance you need including background information and draft articles. Call Nancy at (206) 624-0094.