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3 smiling people and a baby
Maureen Shannon and Deborah Mattheus conduct an oral health consultation with a Hawaiʻi mother and her son.

Hawaiʻi Dental Service (HDS is partnering with the University of Hawaiʻi to improve oral health in Hawaiʻi by providing grants totaling $211,000 to various UH programs to expand dental services and education, and gain a better understanding of how to overcome the myriad barriers to improved oral health. This investment will help to improve access to care for vulnerable populations in Hawaiʻi including pregnant women and families living in rural areas.

“We’re pleased to have community partners like the University of Hawaiʻi to help address the oral health needs of our state. The university’s faculty and dental hygiene program have been valuable resources to further our mission of improving oral health in Hawaiʻi especially for the underserved communities,” said Mark Yamakawa, HDS president and CEO. “This is a first step toward our efforts to develop ongoing oral health programs for Hawaiʻi’s families.”

Many of Hawaiʻi’s families face serious oral health challenges due to a range of issues including the high cost of living, no statewide fluoridation system, no school sealant program and a lack of oral health education. The Pew Center on the States reviews and assesses states’ performance in a variety of domains and its reports on oral health have consistently rated Hawaiʻi an “F.”

Hawaiʻi Dental Service grants

Improving oral health outcomes for pregnant women and children in Hawaiʻi

The School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene is partnering with Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women and Children to gather critical information about the oral health beliefs and behaviors of families, provide culturally appropriate oral health education to high risk families and connect these families to dental providers in the community for their oral healthcare.

“We are committed to improving health through education, research and service. With support from HDS and through strong partnerships with community agencies we can enhance the care of diverse populations in Hawaiʻi,” said principal investigator Deborah J. Mattheus, nursing assistant professor.

Expanding UH Maui College Oral Health Program community outreach

People living in rural areas such as Maui County face a multitude of barriers when seeking dental care. These barriers can include dentist availability, ability to pay, transportation issues and others. UH Maui College dental hygiene program will expand dental care and support services offered by its Maui Oral Health Program (MOHP), which serves underserved populations on Maui through community outreach and collaboration with local nonprofit agencies.

Rosie Vierra, dental hygiene program coordinator said, “Thanks to HDS, we will be able to expand our services, including free screening and care to the underserved, and also provide education on the importance of oral hygiene to the population as a whole. Because of the generous donation from HDS, the MOHP is able to purchase digital sensors and intraoral cameras and other innovative equipment in an effort to provide the highest quality care for patients of the MOHP.”

Needs and assets assessment of oral health services in Hawaiʻi

The Office of Public Health Studies is conducting a statewide assessment of oral healthcare services (both prevention and treatment), in order to discern potential needs/gaps. The final report will provide recommendations and steps for action to assist HDS and other community stakeholders develop comprehensive plans to improve the state’s oral health.

“This study also provided a valuable field research opportunity for 10 graduate students at OPHS, who gained firsthand experience in research design and data collection,” said Jeanelle Sugimoto-Matsuda, public health studies and psychiatry assistant professor. “It is our hope that we can translate their stories into action, to increase support for these dedicated individuals and organizations that have such incredible passion and dedication for their work and communities.”

For more, read the UH Foundation news release.

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