Promoting Health Equity by Expanding a Network of Sustainable School-linked Oral Health Programs

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An Oral Health Initiative Ready for Implementation

Implementation planning is both terrifying and exhilarating.  Terrifying because we can never be completely sure that others will like, accept and use the product of our work.  What if we’ve missed something really important?  What if people think it’s boring?  What if the environment is shifting in ways that decrease its effectiveness?  Exhilarating because we begin to see the product of our thinking and work come alive in the real world.  We find new partners and stakeholders; we get the opportunity to share what we have learned and develop a broader network of engaged participants.  The Smart Mouths Smart Kids (SMSK) Toolkit has been developed over the course of the past five years, and is now ready to be implemented throughout Colorado, and piloted in out-of-state locations.  We bite our nails, and hold champagne glasses high.

On Friday, April 7, SMSK invited partners and stakeholders to join us in an implementation planning day.  The purpose was three-fold:  1) To acquaint all participants with the SMSK Toolkit, and provide an overview of the toolkit and its development process.  2) To engage participants in discussions that would lead to building a roadmap toward effective implementation, and to examine the infrastructure needed to make the use of the Toolkit a reality in both Colorado and other states. 3) To learn what commitments organizations and individuals could make to help assure that implementation of the SMSK Toolkit is a success.  There were 16 participants representing 13 diverse organizations that participated.

We believe that the planning day was a great success, and initial responses from evaluations indicate that we were definitely on the right track.  Nearly all participants indicated that they learned a lot about the SMSK toolkit and its usefulness for school-linked oral health programs.  Our evaluator shared that she is receiving very positive responses to our on-line evaluation survey.  Results of the evaluation survey will be used as a part of the next-steps proposal that the SMSK team will submit to the DentaQuest Foundation for SMSK work in the coming year.

At this point, we are feeling more exhilarated than terrified, and are certain that the SMSK Toolkit will be central to achieving our vision of impact: “Colorado communities have the tools to ensure that elementary and middle school aged children have access to preventive oral health care and a dental home.”

The next step is to launch the Toolkit in other areas of the country, knowing that its use will positively impact the oral health status of thousands of children across the country.  Another prospect that is both terrifying and exhilarating!