10:12 AM

Rating the Performance of Your State’s Health System

There’s an interesting new report by the Commonwealth Fund, Securing a Healthy Future: The Commonwealth Fund State Scorecard on Child Health System Performance, 2011 that is worth looking at.

The Commonwealth Fund’s researchers took a number of objective measures for good health -- such as access to prevention and treatment, the potential to lead a healthy life (defined as factors such as low prevalence of specific health problems, low obesity, and lack of habits and behaviors that impact health, such as smoking) and socio-demographic dimensions (such as income and where you live) -- and looked at how each of these measures impact the others. The result is a very interesting and comprehensive picture of elements that contribute to children's health in each state.

We’re pleased that this report includes preventive dental care and the absence of dental problems as measures of access to prevention and treatment and a factor in healthy lives. The Report concludes that the high rate of poor yet preventable dental health outcomes among children in many states points to the need to improve preventive dental health care.

Better access to oral health services can reduce tooth decay and lead to a better quality of life for children, as well as reduce financial and societal costs. The Commonwealth Fund found that almost one third of children did not see a dentist for a preventive visit in the bottom-ranked state and more than 10 percent did not have a dental check-up in the top-ranked state. Want to know who they are? Click the link on the report title and check out the report!

Dental disease is nearly 100% preventable when people have access to information about keeping their mouths healthy and access to dental services. Public education, expansion of access to dental care, and integration of oral health into routine well-child care are smart ways to do this.

It works best when FAMILIES are able get the services they need to maintain their oral health since parents need dental care themselves for their own good health AND so they can be a good example for their children. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2010 goals recommend that children have at least 1 dental visit annually. And the American Dental Association says that you can start this at the age of 1 or when the first tooth erupts.

So, check out the data for your state. And then let me ask you -- is an annual visit to the dentist something that you do for yourself and for your children?