Collaborating in Community Engagement
Program improves oral health in city children
Students (L-R): Farhia Ahmed; Sonteesouk Bouravanh; Maurice Bellamy; Tahyah Fairconatue; Fardowso Shidad. Representing the collaborating partners are (L-R): Reyna Garcia, Columbia St. Mary’s; Matt Crespin, RDH, MPH, Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin; Lisa Olson, Medical College; Marques Bland, Columbia St. Mary’s; M. Kathleen Murphy, DNP, RN, Milwaukee Public Schools; Anitea Taylor, RDH, Columbia St. Mary’s; Earnestine Willis, MD, MPH, Medical College; A. Charles Post, DDS, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Dental Center; and Elizabeth Nelson, MA, Columbia St. Mary’s.
Not pictured are: Karen Ordinans, Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin; Deanna Janssen, RDH, Southeast Dental Associates; Jorelle Alexander, DMD, MPH, Milwaukee Health Services, Inc.; Christopher Okunseri, BDS, MSc, Marquette University School of Dentistry; and Bill Solberg, Columbia St. Mary’s.
Through collaborative efforts, the Making Milwaukee Smile program is helping to improve the oral health of thousands of children in Milwaukee schools.
Making Milwaukee Smile builds upon an existing program that provides free preventive dental screening on site at 41 Milwaukee schools and facilitates referrals for early and urgent dental care.
Through funding from the Medical College’s Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program, Making Milwaukee Smile was created to increase participation in the Columbia St. Mary’s school-based oral health care program and to reduce early and urgent dental needs among the children.
To accomplish this, Making Milwaukee Smile began by adding a program coordinator at two test schools— the Frances Starms Early Childhood Center and Starms Discovery Learning Center. The coordinator’s role is to encourage and assist parents with the steps needed to enroll their children in their school’s oral health program, as well as to increase access to oral health care facilities and track the oral health status of the students.
It was evident that the Making Milwaukee Smile model was a success. Participation of students at the Starms schools increased from 50% to 77% over the three years of the program. The percentage of children with urgent dental needs was reduced by more than half. The model has been replicated across 10 additional Milwaukee schools, where the addition of an oral health care coordinator has increased enrollment in the program from 19% to 41% (a 116% increase) impacting a total of just under 2,000 children.
The Medical College’s participation in this collaboration is led by Earnestine Willis, MD, MPH, and involves the College’s Center for the Advancement of Underserved Children. The oral health care collaboration of community partners is convened by Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Public Schools provides the temporary clinic space for the mobile oral health unit. Oral health screening and preventive services, such as sealants and fluoride applications, are provided by Columbia St. Mary’s.
If dental disease is identified, the child is referred to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Dental Center, Marquette University School of Dentistry, Milwaukee Health Services, Inc., and Progressive Community Health Center. Southeast Dental Associates provides case management and claim-processing services to secure reimbursements for the partnering dental offices.
By uniting with a network of professional medical and dental organizations, Making Milwaukee Smile is having a ripple effect on improving access to oral health for Milwaukee’s children.
Dr. Willis is the Kellner Professor in Pediatrics, Chief of Community Pediatrics, Director of the Medical College’s Center for the Advancement of Underserved Children, and Director of Health Equity and Urban Clinical Care Partnerships in the Institute for Health and Society.