The Early Childhood Oral Health Program: Promoting prevention and timely intervention of early childhood caries in NSW through shared care

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 2012, 23 (3), pp. 171 - 176
Issue Date:
2012-12-01
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Issue addressed: Early childhood caries (ECC) continues to have high prevalence worldwide, despite being largely preventable. The Early Childhood Oral Health (ECOH) Program was established in New South Wales (NSW) using a model of shared responsibility for oral health, which involves a partnership between child health professionals, oral health professionals and parents of young children, to facilitate the primary prevention, early identification and early intervention of ECC. Methods: An evaluation of the ECOH program was conducted, using mixed methods. Data were obtained through document review, surveys and interviews with program implementers, and analysis of the Information System for Oral Health (ISOH) database for public oral health services activity in NSW. Results: Key achievements of the ECOH program include the establishment of governance mechanisms, policy, structures and responsibilities for implementation, support mechanisms for child health professionals, referral processes, communications resources, and the delivery of training. Parents receive oral health information, education and support through written resources and contact with child health professionals. Child and family health nurses interviewed reported routinely incorporating oral health promotion and early identification for ECC into their practices. The referral rate to public oral health services for children under five years of age by community health professionals has increased steadily since the program began, with the rate in 2009 five times higher than in 2007. Conclusions: Models of shared responsibility for oral health between parents, child health professionals and oral health professionals can facilitate primary prevention and early intervention for ECC.
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