Bright Smiles nurtures learning

Jan 15, 2014

2013-AnnualReport-BrightSmiles.jpgStudents in the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) have better opportunities than ever for a healthy start and a bright smile.

Bright Smiles is the dental program available through Healthy Kids Community Care school-based clinics.

Susie Poulton, RN, MSN, Director of Health and Student Services, coordinates staff and clinics to ensure all students' health needs are met so they can attend school ready to learn. "Healthy children are optimal learners."

She says the vast majority of kids come to school ready to learn. Another portion may not have all the resources they'd like available, and then there's another group with so many barriers that they're at a distinct disadvantage to learn.

While the Midwest is somewhat sheltered from unemployment and poverty experienced in large urban centers, the Great Recession has impacted Johnson County families. Of the 5,000 families served by the 133-square mile school district, nearly 400 students have living arrangements other than their own home or apartment. Nearly a third of district families live in poverty.

Dental care is a basic need that's often postponed, especially during a financial crisis. Poulton says approximately 1 percent of the district's student population receive Bright Smiles dental services each year. The children served are new to the district or they haven't lived in a location long enough to establish residency. Sometimes insurance coverage isn't available where parents work, they don't qualify for Hawk-I insurance or perhaps they just purchase catastrophic insurance.

Poulton says all children in a family can receive services through the clinic if they are uninsured, underinsured or have barriers to accessing health care. Last year, Bright Smiles covered $27,000 in preventative dental care, dental treatment and restorative dental care services for children, infants to age 21, through the University of Iowa College of Dentistry. She adds very often parents pay a portion of the cost of the initial visit.

Initially, Dr. Marguertie Oetting, pediatric physician at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, volunteered medical services for Healthy Kids Clinics. Now, UIHC donates her services one day a week. A Pediatric Nurse Practitioner from the University of Iowa College of Nursing and UIHC Child Psychiatrist also provide medical services, and the clinic employs a full-time, bilingual coordinator. Clinics are held at Northwest, South East Junior High schools on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and once a month a mobile clinic visits City and West High schools.

ICCSD programs such as family resource centers, school health clinics, and federal Safe Schools-Healthy Students grants are some of the tools the district uses to reach out to families in need of assistance.

"It's preventative medicine," Poulton says of the Bright Smiles clinics. "Parents tell us they are very, very grateful. And they tell us they are welcomed and accepted in our district and appreciate being treated with respect.

"We're very fortunate. The Iowa City Community School District has great resources and our staff works as a team to help each youngster be ready to learn."

Category: Partners Project