Kellogg grant helps UA bring smiles to children


University of Akron researchers are wrapping up a three-year, $1 million grant that put a sparkling smile on the faces of thousands of children in Northeast Ohio.

UA nursing and dietetics students and faculty teamed up with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for a pilot program to improve the oral health of low-income pregnant women, mothers and children in Summit and Portage counties. 

Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the project helped expand the notion of who can offer oral health care, as nurses and dietitians assessed and varnished the teeth of more than 7,000 children from rural and urban communities.

Teamwork pays off

"Nurses do a good deal of health education; dieticians do a good deal of nutritional education … it's a very natural marriage," says Diana Biordi, UA project coordinator.

Varnishing is a preventive procedure that protects children's teeth; and through an educational component of the program, parents and children learned about good oral health habits. 

"It's never too early to start thinking about good oral health," Biordi says. "Poor oral health often indicates poor physical health, and reaching these children at a young age is key."

UA has created a model for future projects

The program draws attention to the "profound need for oral health among vulnerable (low income) children" and can serve as a model for further inter-professional work, she adds.

"This simple procedure can work and be applied in large volume, quickly, by experienced people," Biordi says.

Now that the project is complete, Biordi and her associates plan to analyze the data collected.

"Examining the data will be fun," says Biordi. "Already, the numbers are impressive."

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