Project ENGAGE is being funded with a $1 million grant from United Health Foundation and another $750,000 from UnitedHealthcare. Temple University will work together to create the registry and coordinate the interventions to families, with assistance from UnitedHealthcare.
“The neighborhoods served by Project ENGAGE have the highest cost-of-care for children’s dental care in Pennsylvania, in part because the parents of these children tend to seek dental care only when it’s an emergency and then seek that care at a hospital, which can be expensive,” Ismail said. “We need to shift the dental care from when the children have a problem to before the problem starts.”
The program will also provide training for primary care physicians to encourage preventive screenings and to apply dental varnish, while also giving general dentists who do not currently provide dental care for very young children the support and information needed to care for children. Studies show that children should begin seeing a dentist before their first birthday. In many cases, dental referrals for young children come through primary care physicians, helping to catch diseases early and perhaps avoid a lifetime of dental disease and other health issues.
“By combining Temple University’s clinical expertise with UnitedHealthcare’s extensive claims information, we will promote oral health, expand access to care and reduce the prevalence of dental disease,” said Michael Weitzner, DMD, MS, vice president, UnitedHealthcare Dental. “We have the unique opportunity to enhance the health delivery system and improve health outcomes for thousands of children in Pennsylvania.”Project ENGAGE builds on the success of other oral health initiatives created by UnitedHealthcare for Medicaid plans. In New York, New Jersey and Mississippi, UnitedHealthcare organizes the Early Childhood Caries program, which encourages primary care physicians to perform oral health screenings on very young children. The program has helped enhance preventive care, with nearly 90 percent of children that were referred to a general dentist after a physician screening receiving preventive services such as a cleaning or fluoride treatment.