Inside Opinion

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Tag: health department


There’s no excuse for letting children’s teeth rot

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

For some odd reason, Americans divide health care into two parts: teeth – and everything else. It’s as if the jaw somehow floats around disconnected from the rest of the body.

Most parents will take their kids to the doctor if they get the flu. But far too many will let cavities fester, sometimes leaving children with persistent pain, ruined teeth and poor school performance.

A recent study by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department isn’t encouraging. Evaluating its own effort to provide decay-preventing sealants or varnishes to Medicaid-eligible schoolchildren, the department found that it hasn’t so far made much of a dent in the overall cavity rate.

The treatment is effective; the problem is getting it to the kids who need it.

The report is both surprising and frustrating. The health department has been heroic in trying to connect children – especially low-income children, who are most at risk – to the dental care they need.

The in-school program has been successful elsewhere and still holds promise here, but some things need changing. The study found that the department’s dental hygienists were able to treat less than a third of eligible children.

One reason was that parents weren’t giving permission (or getting the permission slips in the first place). Another was that some school administrators reportedly didn’t make it particularly easy for the hygienists to get to the students.

Nobody would let gangrene fester or cancer go untreated. But even in 2010, too few people understand the urgency of protecting children’s teeth – including baby teeth when they’re first coming in. A sense of urgency would spur more visits to the dentist, more tooth-brushing, less sugar consumption and far broader water fluoridation – which now benefits only 45 percent of Pierce County’s population.
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Patti Banks: Why did Curtis High get stiffed on flu vaccine?

When it comes to the swine flu vaccine in Pierce County, some school districts are more equal than others.

Below, University Place Superintendent Patti Banks cries foul about the way county health officials allocated scarce vaccine doses to clinics at six high schools, not including Curtis High School. (The “Mike and Debbie” refer to the reporters who wrote the story on the school clinics.)

Mike and Debbie – I want to share with you my concerns about the communication and decisions of the health department with regard to the H1N1 vaccination clinics featured in your story today. We heard of these clinics (which, as your story indicates, the health department has been “closed mouthed” about) only last week.

We immediately contacted the health department for details, since we’ve been working hard to keep our schools and community informed, and had promised that we would let them know when and if vaccination opportunities would be available.

We had also specifically communicated to the health department that we would like to have a vaccination clinic at Curtis High School. The health department (Charron) promised to stay in contact with us and let us know when they would be doing this. This did not occur; last week, Charron at the health department told John Sander, Director of Special Services in UPSD, that she was sorry for not keeping in touch with him.
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