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Curbing caries, boosting access goals of IHS initiative

Rockville, Md.—An Indian Health Service initiative announced Jan. 21, 2010, calls for reducing the prevalence of early childhood caries among American Indian and Alaska Native children age 5 and younger by 25 percent and increasing their dental access by 50 percent by 2015.

The oral health initiative seeks a 10 percent increase this year, from a 2008 baseline, in access to dental exams or screenings for children through age 5.

"This is an initiative that we in the IHS are very excited about," said Dr. Christopher G. Halliday, director of the IHS division of oral health and chief dental officer for the U.S. Public Health Service. "It is the steering committee's firm belief that the IHS initiative will make a marked and measurable improvement in the oral health status of the American Indian and Alaska Native children."

The initiative described at http://www.doh.ihs.gov/documents/ecc/IHSDentalExplorerECCInitiative.pdf includes online information and training for dental and community partners in "a new program designed to promote prevention and early intervention of dental caries (tooth decay) in young children through an interdisciplinary approach."

Differing from the Baby Bottle Tooth Decay and other IHS early childhood caries efforts in the 1990s, the new initiative calls for establishment of a national oral health surveillance system in the Indian Health Service and "a more formal approach at reaching out to medical and community partners." The new Early Childhood Caries Initiative calls for prevention and early intervention and includes online courses, a PowerPoint, a web page and printed materials.

Dental members of the ECC steering committee and pediatric dentist review committee are listed in the February 2010 IHS Dental Explorer, a publication of the IHS division of oral health.