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Program harnesses power of storytelling to teach children, parents about proper oral health

Program harnesses power of storytelling to teach children, parents about proper oral health

Okemos, Michigan— More than 1/3 of American children start kindergarten without the skills they need to succeed in school.

A new initiative born out of a partnership between the Delta Dental Foundation and Reach Out and Read is changing that, and marrying primary care, oral health and literacy at well child checkups.

The Reach Out and Read oral health program first launched in Ohio in 2015 and today expanded into Michigan with a kickoff event at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Specialty Center in Detroit.

As part of the program, medical providers who participate in Reach Out and Read integrate oral health information into their young patients’ routine visits.

During the checkups, each child receives a brand-new, age-appropriate oral health book, while their parents hear individually-tailored guidance on how to use the book at home to both promote early literacy and establish good oral health habits.

A $74,000 grant from the Delta Dental Foundation paid for the children’s books and educational materials.

“Children miss 51 million hours of school every year due to oral health related issues,” said Teri Battaglieri, executive director of the Delta Dental Foundation. “The expansion of this program allows us to reach more children and parents with the message of good oral health so they can find success early in school and life.”

In addition to the Children’s Hospital, the program will be in place at Canton Health Center, Covenant Community Care and Northville Health Center.

Results of the program in Ohio have shown great success as 82 percent of parents reacted positively to receiving oral health guidance during a visit to the doctor’s office.

“A developmentally and culturally appropriate children’s book has become an invaluable tool in our provider toolbox to gain insight into the parent/child relationship,” said Dr. Robert Needlman, MD, FAAP, Co-Founder of Reach Out and Read. “By sharing the why, when and how of oral health care and early literacy with parents and children through age five, we can help to lay the foundation for healthy children with healthy literacy habits by the time they enter school.”

The program will reach 3,400 Michigan children and their parents in the first year. Since launching in Ohio, the program has reached 27,600 individuals.