Child dental health initiative launches in Eastern Kentucky

Anke Neustadt

Weekday broadcast of WYMT Mountain News at 6

JOHNSON COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) – Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Medicaid launched its Brighter Smiles, Brighter Futures initiative as part of National Children’s Dental Health Month this February.

Anthem officials pledged to deliver 2,500 dental care kits to Eastern Kentucky public schools, including: Cumberland Elementary School in Harlan County, Emmalena Elementary School in Knott County, Jesse D. Lay Elementary School in Knox County, Owsley County Elementary School and Owsley County Middle/High School in Owsley County and W.R. Castle Elementary School in Johnson County.

”We feel like it’s important to get those toothbrushes and those checklists in the schools so that children can start brushing correctly at a young age,” said Anthem Medicaid’s Public Health Consultant, Grace Nelson.

The education and awareness campaign is focused on improving child oral health in the region and each kit delivered includes a toothbrush and those educational materials.

“The importance of good dental practices, especially brushing, flossing and regular cleanings, cannot be overstated,” said Leon Lamoreaux, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Kentucky Medicaid President. “Poor oral health in early childhood is associated with negative overall health outcomes, increased medical costs and lower quality of life in adults. Anthem is committed to the health of our members and our neighbors across the Commonwealth, which is why we are establishing the Brighter Smiles, Brighter Futures initiative. We want to ensure that our youngest Kentuckians have access to the personal hygiene items they need for a brighter future at school, home and in the community.”

An Operation Unite teacher at W.R. Castle Elementary, Heather VanHoose, was instrumental in getting the school involved in the initiative even though the Unite program typically deals with drug awareness campaigns. For VanHoose, it’s all about healthy living any way you can.

“Anything that we can prevent early on will go well with education,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s with drugs or healthy bodies.”

School principal, Stephen Young, said that he’s glad to have the program in his school. He finds that children respond best when engaging experts come in and teach the kids about health topics.

”We learn a lot of the things that we take into adulthood at this early age,” Principal Young said. “And school is not just about math, and science and reading. We also have to teach them about the little things in life.”

According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, fewer than half of the children covered by Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), receive dental services.

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