The attendance at the 3rd annual Kentucky Oral Health Coalition (KOHC) meeting was a sure sign of growth. More than 60 oral health advocates and stakeholders participated in the meeting from many counties of the Commonwealth, which is a positive sign of the power behind this important purpose.
This year, KOHC was fortunate enough to have Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, provide the young coalition with advocacy lessons. Brooks offered practical tactics on furthering the message as we approach the 2015 legislative session. One of the most powerful takeaways was something we have to all keep in mind, pace. Brooks explained that the Coalition must not be bogged down by time. Some bills will fly through the process, while others may take years. The important takeaway was not giving up and knowing that little victories are still victories.
Linda Poynter, chair of the School Based Oral Health work group, provided the group with an update on the strides and challenges the School Based Oral Health work group has been facing this year. In the next year, this work group will work to:
- Enhance the kindergarten oral health screening process;
- Increase awareness of the oral health screening;
- Improve data collection through the screening ;
- Encourage preschools and Head Starts to provide fluoride varnish programs; and
- Expansion of the Public Health Registered Dental Hygienist (PHRDH) to include payment for services.
The Oral Health Literacy Work Group led by outgoing Chairman Dr. Laura Hancock-Jones continues to make strides. This past year:
- KOHC has been awarded 3 grants for literacy efforts.
- Gained several new partnerships with corporate, national and local organizations.
- Continued to promote the Smiles for Life Curriculum among various health professionals.
Mahak Kalra shared some promising news on the communication front. KOHC now has a presence on social channels including Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter and they are growing by the day. KOHC has been blogging regularly, hosting webinars, sending bi-weekly electronic news messages, as well as sponsoring and attending annual health meetings.
There is now a new class of officers elected to the executive committee. Dr. Nikki Stone will take over the role of Chairman, Deborah Wade will serve as Treasurer, Ada Carlisle is the newly elected Secretary and Dr. Stephanie Roney will serve as Chair-Elect.
Now, it’s time to look into the future and continue the work of this amazing Coalition. The policies established by the group moving forward will serve to increase oral health literacy for all ages in the Bluegrass State.
In the coming year, KOHC will work toward strengthening the public school kindergarten entry oral health screening requirements, make strides toward ongoing and sustained oral health surveillance (early childhood, school age, adults, seniors) by State Dental Epidemiologists and fight to protect Kentuckians from the dangers of secondhand smoke by enacting a statewide, comprehensive smoke-free law that prohibits smoking indoors in indoor workplaces and public places, including restaurants and bars.
There is a lot of work ahead, but if any group can accomplish these goals, it is this one!
Want to get involved? Please join! Kentucky Oral Health Coalition’s mission is to improve the oral health of all Kentuckians so each and every resident of the Commonwealth can enjoy optimal oral health for life.