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Fighting Cavities With Fluoride Varnish

By Delaney Gracy , MD, MPH, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Children's Health Fund

As a pediatrician and a mom, I know how important it is for kids to practice proper oral health care from an early age. When teeth are not properly cared for, more critical medical problems may occur and in some extreme cases can even lead to death.

As I explained on Give Kids a Smile Day, in the low-income communities where doctors within CHF’s network serve, lack of oral health care is a huge problem and kids are suffering. Luckily, in addition to providing free, comprehensive oral health care—screening, dental exams, digital x-rays, oral health education and dental procedures—many of our programs have also implemented an easy and affordable way to help kids in low-income families keep their teeth safe and clean through the use of fluoride varnishing. Fluoride varnish is a highly concentrated form of fluoride which is applied to the tooth’s surface to help prevent cavities. It is easy to apply, extremely affordable, and is safe for/tolerated by infants, young kids and individuals with special needs. The best part though is that it is effective—several studies have shown a 25-45% reduction in the decay rate with the use of fluoride varnish.

Dental varnish is applied to the teeth with a little disposable brush.In a few easy steps, your dentist, hygienist, or primary health care provider can apply the varnish: ensure the teeth are dry, apply a thin layer of the varnish to all surfaces of the teeth with a disposable brush (almost like painting), and once the varnish comes into contact with saliva, it will harden and you are done!

If, and how often, a child needs fluoride varnish depends on many factors, including the amount of fluoride in their water supply, if they are taking vitamins with fluoride supplementation, their general oral health, and their individual risk factors.

It’s important to note that applying the varnish does not negate the importance regular visits with a dentist, or of daily dental care like brushing your teeth or flossing. It’s just another way to help in the fight against cavities….and that’s a great thing.

Has your child received the varnish application? How did he/she react? Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo Friday - Meet CHF's Newest Team Member, Dr. Manali Kanitkar

Dr. Manali Kanitkar joins Children's Health Fund's New York Mobile Dental Clinic.

Today, Children's Health Fund welcomed Dr. Manali Kanitkar, the new dentist for the New York Mobile Dental Clinic, which will begin providing much needed dental care to New York City kids in a few weeks. Dr. Kanitkar spoke with CHF staff today and is pictured here (center) with Dr. Irwin Redlener and Dr. Delaney Gracy. Stay tuned for a full introduction to Dr. Kanitkar, including her vision and experience with the pediatric 'Dental Home'.

One Year Later – Are Children’s Provisions at Risk?

By Caroline DeRosa, Senior Director, Policy and Advocacy, Children's Health Fund

A year ago today, Children's Health Fund (CHF) and many other child advocacy organizations applauded passage of the health care reform law signed by President Obama. In a newly released white paper entitled Children Under Siege: Safeguarding Provisions for Children in the New Health Law, CHF details how the health care reform law will improve the lives of millions of children.

Provisions in the law will lead to more children having health insurance and improved access to care. The law also includes efforts to increase the numbers of primary care physicians and community health centers. More school based health centers will get the funding they need, as will efforts to prevent chronic illness that are already underway, including initiatives to curb obesity and tobacco use.

Moving this law forward is an investment in our nation’s future that needs our support   Instead, the health care reform law is under siege on a number of fronts including attempts in Congress to de-fund and weaken the law.It is critical that advocates for children speak out to prevent the roll-back of these important provisions.  Tell your lawmakers you support the health care reform law because it will greatly improve the lives of millions of children.

Photo Friday - Spring is Just Around the Corner!

Children's Health Fund teaches children and their families that playing outdoors is a great way to stay healthy and active.

With warmer weather and longer days, it's much easier to get outside and get some exercise.  Hitting the playground (like these kids in Southern Arizona), playing a sport, or even taking a walk with your kids after dinner are all fun ways your family can get the exercise your body needs.  

Need more ideas on ways to get moving? Check out our recently updated Healthy B.A.S.I.C.S brochure: Be Active for Good Health.

Building an Office of Children and Youth

by Caroline DeRosa, Senior Director, Policy and Advocacy, Children's Health Fund

Last Wednesday, I spent the day on Capitol Hill meeting with Congressional staff and talking with them about one of Children's Health Fund (CHF)’s legislative priorities for this year: Establishing a White House Office for Children and YouthThe purpose of this office would be to create a national policy strategy for the nation’s children and to ensure that all programs and services for kids, which are spread throughout many government agencies, are acting in coordination with each other as part of the national strategy. To learn more, please take a look at the comments CHF recently submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services on a national strategy for children.

All of the Congressional staff I met with were generally in agreement that more focus needs to be directed toward bettering the outcomes for America’s kids. With one in five kids being born into poverty, 30 percent of students failing to graduate from high school and 9 million children lacking health insurance, how could you not want to fix things, right? But many of the staffers cited they were too busy with other issues to champion this effort. Ironically, this is exactly why we need an office to focus just on kids. Too often other priorities get pushed to the top of the agenda and our kids lose out.

Luckily, we have some members of Congress that ARE willing to take charge on this issue and we look forward to working with them to ensure the well-being of children, especially the underserved.  Our promise is to continue to fight to make sure kids issues are a main focus of the federal government.

Sharing The Mission

By Dennis Johnson, MPA Executive Vice President, Policy and Advocacy

One of the more enjoyable and energizing aspects of my work is the occasional opportunity to speak with young people about the Children's Health Fund mission and how we leverage our assets to help medically underserved kids and communities. Today we had a group in from Notre Dame University, who wanted to learn about our medical programs and how they informed our policy and advocacy activities. College students have a way of cutting through the organizational and policy doublespeak that diminish clear thinking and expression and our guests were no exception.  Their questions were incisive went right to the heart of why our work is so vital. If not now, when? If not us, who?

CHF Executive Director, Karen Redlener, in recalling the genesis of the organization, told of her earlier post-college experience as a VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) volunteer in rural Arkansas.  Many of our guests seemed to sense a connection with their own interest in exploring ways of uplifting communities and helping the disadvantaged to gain better access to critically needed services. They also seemed to have a genuine interest in the scope of healthcare issues that remain to be addressed. When our chief medical officer Dr. Arturo Brito explained the breadth of the Children's Health Fund National Network, our guests began to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the enormous challenges that children face in the medically underserved communities of America. Most were amazed to learn that nearly a quarter of American children live below or at the poverty line and that that number continues to increase. There was a great deal of interest in learning about the elements that constitute the “enhanced medical home” model of care, what it means for the children we care for and why it is central to the our mission. When the discussion segued to the Fund’s policy and advocacy work the questions turned, as they so often do, to basic fundamental questions about why a great nation hasn't figured out how to make quality healthcare available to all children. There were some terrific questions about the economics of healthcare and the best ways to convert our lessons learned into more responsive national policy. Though we didn't have a great deal of time to explore issues in depth, I think we were able to breathe a little excitement into an issue that is too often cast only in terms of cost, benefit and return on investment. For those of us who work the nuts and bolts of these issues every day, having a spirited discussion with a group of bright young thinkers was a splendid way to begin the work week and a reminder of the impressive, committed young people that will rise to carry our mission forward.

Photo Friday - A Look Back to the Welfare Hotels of New York

Homeless child sitting in New York Homeless Shelter

We recently came across a number of photos from Dr. Redlener's visits to the NYC welfare hotels  in the late 1980s.  As you can see from today's photo, homeless children were living in horrendous conditions with little chance of achieving a healthy lifestyle.  Unfortunately, many children today are still suffering like this young girl. With your support, we will continue to bring these children the health care they need and deserve.

My Day in Albany

By Deirdre Byrne, Director of Policy, Children's Health Fund

On Monday, I traveled to Albany with one of the doctors at the New York Children’s Health Project, Dr. A.J. Khaw. Our agenda for the day included several meetings with legislators and fellow advocates from the Providers of Health Care for the Homeless Coalition. This is budget season in Albany and the state is facing a $10 billion budget deficit. While the state has not proposed cutting Medicaid rolls or other drastic measures, the Governor formed a Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) to find $2.85 billion in savings for FY 2012, which starts on April 1, 2011, and beyond.

During our meetings, Dr. Khaw and I talked about our programs and state budget concerns, including a proposal by the MRT to enroll all homeless children and families into Medicaid managed care, an alternative that may not work well for homeless children. This is just one of 79 MRT recommendations put forward by Governor Cuomo that must be approved by the legislature as part of the budget process. (Learn more about the recommendations from the Medicaid Redesign Team.)

While the state has successfully implemented managed care for a majority of Medicaid recipients, we believe that the use of managed care for this population is inappropriate and interferes with their access to care. Homeless children and families face unique challenges as a patient population; requiring enrollment in managed care cripples their access to care and also puts health care for the homeless providers at moral and financial risk.

Want to know more? Read CHF’s letter to the MRT on homeless health care.

Photo Friday - Promoting Proper Nutrition All Year Round

CHF Dietician Working with Child

This year, the theme of national nutrition month is "Eat Right with Color" and it's a great time to think about adding more colorful fruits and vegetable to your diet. In this photo, nutritionist Dr. Sandra Arevalo is teaching her patient what his dinner plate should look like.  We're glad to see he is adding his greens! 

Our programs are committed to helping families understand healthy eating and exercise habits through programs like the Starting Right Initiative, a multi-faceted program designed to increase awareness of the rise in pediatric overweight risks including type 2 diabetes (T2DM).

Children's Health Fund also creates health education materials that make vital health information accessible to children, teenagers, parents and care givers. Material topics include promoting healthy behaviors, growth and development, preventing disease and managing chronic illness. These award-winning health education materials are available for download in English and Spanish. 


Photo Friday - A Blast From the Past

► Children's Health Fund (CHF) is lucky to have so many noteable friends that support our work.  Pictured here from left to right:  Don Mattingly, who helped launched Children's Health Fund's Yankee Home Run Club, CHF Co-Founder Paul Simon, Jane Pauley, Chair of CHF's Advisory Council, and CHF Co-Founder and President Irwin Redlener M.D.   

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