Posts Tagged ‘Public Health’

How do you talk to the doctor when you don’t know the words?

Posted in Medill News Service, Print on July 19th, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

Lisa Owad/Medill

By Lisa Owad
March 11, 2010
Medill News Service

Every day thousands of Chicagoans visit a doctor – but can’t explain what’s wrong.

It’s not because they don’t know their symptoms, they just don’t speak the same language.

Radhika Sharma Gordon deals with this constantly as coordinator for a health organization in one of the most diverse areas in the country, Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood.

“One problem [we face] is the language gap in health communications,” said Gordon, the coordinator of Healthy Albany Park, a community coalition of health care workers. “We’ve steadily had an increasing Spanish-speaking population, but we need free or low-cost translation into Arabic for the sizable Arabic-speaking community here.”

Lisa Owad/Medill

With dozens of languages spoken in Chicago, health care organizations can find it challenging to meet all of their patients’ needs.

Speaking their language

Small, community-based organizations like Healthy Albany Park struggle to find funding for translation services and often have to rely on the language skills of their staff.

“We’re forced to be very creative, because we get so little money,” Gordon said. “Unfortunately, people who are bilingual often have this foisted on them as another job duty. You don’t want to overburden any bilingual colleague.”

Lisa Owad/Medill

Organizations that are larger and better-funded have more options.

Cook County’s Community and Economic Development Association has a Women, Infants and Children Program office in Albany Park. WIC is a nonprofit, national organization funded by the United States Department of Agriculture that focuses on nutrition counseling and services for moms and kids.

“We run the largest WIC program in Illinois,” said Sarah Sullivan, program coordinator. “Monthly we serve over 46,000 clients in Cook County.”

Lisa Owad/Medill

With federal funding and national support, the WIC offices find it easier to fulfill their clients’ translation and interpretation needs.

“I think we do a very good job meeting the language need within [Albany Park],” Sullivan said. “We have four languages that are spoken on site, full time: Arabic, Hindi, Spanish and English. All of our clerks that are hired speak another language. That is part of the job requirement.”

With so many different languages spoken in Chicago, it’s impossible to represent every language with an on-site interpreter. Using outside agencies to assist with translation and interpretation is a necessity.

“We use AT&T’s Language Line,” Sullivan said. “We have a standing contract with them, so translation help is just a phone call away. We also partner with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights for translation help as needed.”

Video or phone interpreter services are commonly used by hospitals to communicate with non-English speaking patients.

“We have access to 170 languages through a combination of staff interpreters, agency interpreters, phone interpreters and video interpreters,” said Omar Torres-Knight, manager of interpreting services at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital.

However, speaking to an interpreter over a phone or video connection can have its limitations.

“Usually in person is much better,” said Kyung Yu, a Korean interpreter at Swedish Covenant Hospital. “A lot of times our patients are seniors, and a lot of them have hearing problems. And having a rapport with patients is very helpful.”

Swedish Covenant Hospital serves many patients from the diverse Albany Park area.

“The staff has interpreters in house for a few different languages: Korean, Spanish and Russian,” Yu said. “We also use Language Line for other languages.”

When a patient can’t speak English, one of the interpreters is summoned by pager or cell phone. Sometimes their services aren’t even necessary, one of the advantages of working in a diverse community.

“We have many staff [members] that speak other languages,” Yu said. “It depends though, because their primary job isn’t interpretation.”

Immigration trends

Events on the other side of the world can affect translation needs in Chicago. For example, unrest in the Middle East is driving a need for Arabic language services.

“The reality is that anything that’s going on in the world, we pick up in Cook County,” said Magali Rodriguez, the director of interpreter services at the Circuit Court of Cook County.

The number of Arabic speakers in Illinois increased 12.9 percent between 2000 and 2005, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Between 1990 and 2000, the nation’s Arab population increased by nearly 40 percent.

“We have an Arabic population that seems to be growing,” said Yu. “We get requests often for that language [at Swedish Covenant Hospital].”

When immigration organizations foresee a change in the incoming population, news travels to health organizations, so they can prepare to meet the changing needs.

“In 2008, our local refugee settlement program, World Relief, received word to expect more Iraqi refugees,” Gordon said.

“[WIC has] been at Albany Park for 16 years, and I think we’ve seen some of those trends, and we’ve met them very well,” Sullivan said. “We just purchased an Arabic keyboard a few years ago.”

Effective health care communication

A 2002 Institute of Medicine study revealed that “racial and ethnic minorities tend to receive a lower quality of healthcare than non-minorities.” A major factor in this disparity is the patient’s ability to communicate with their doctor.

And the difficulty doesn’t end with the doctor-patient relationship. Hospitals and clinics might have to provide translation for consent forms, educational materials and medication information, according to “One Size Does Not Fit All,” a study by The Joint Commission, an organization that helps facilitate health care communication between providers and patients.

The often immediate nature of health issues can make the need critical. While court dates are usually scheduled ahead of time, health care, by nature, is often unexpected.

“In the health care system it’s really a greater challenge,” Rodriguez said “because we get sick without prior notice.”

However, health organizations like Albany Park find themselves doing the best they can with what they have in order to serve their clients.

“If we can get English, Spanish and Arabic [translation], then we can cover most of the parents [in the area],” said Gordon.

Sidebar:
A parallel system: Interpreting in the judicial system
In 2006, interpreters were used 120, 412 times in Circuit Court of Cook County proceedings.

“Interpreters are requested by the court or a court order,” said Magali Rodriguez, director of interpreter services in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Spanish, Polish and sign language interpreters are the most frequently requested, but the court is prepared to provide for everyone.

“We have three tiers of staff,” Rodriguez said. “We have full-time staff in the most often used languages: Spanish, Polish and sign language. We have a second tier that is called ‘session employees.’ They are reimbursed by how many sessions they work. We also have a variety of what we refer to as ‘exotic languages.’ So they are just languages of lesser use.”

However, in a diverse city like Chicago, Rodriguez finds that more help is needed.

“We contract out with a language services provider,” she said. “Our full-time interpreters work every single day and the others are as needed. The contract agency is for when we can’t provide a language.”

Time is the major difference between interpreter services in health care and the courts.

“If there is an impromptu need, the court will call our office,” Rodriguez said. “We welcome the call from any language, even though we normally request 48 hours in advance to request an interpreter.”

However, the two systems aren’t completely unrelated.

“Some medical interpreters do in fact come work for us,” Rodriguez said. “They are a plus because some of our cases use that specialized terminology. So we have very good luck when they have that experience.”

See this article at the Medill News Service

Taking the stairs for a good cause

Posted in Video on July 19th, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment


By Lisa Owad
March 6, 2010

Chicagoans raced to the roof of one of the city’s tallest buildings, raising money for the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

Mobile unit takes kidney care to people who need it most

Posted in Medill News Service, Print on July 19th, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

The Kidneymobile travels through Illinois to prevent chronic kidney disease. (Courtesy of the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois.)

By Lisa Owad
March 10, 2010
Medill News Service

Not to be confused with the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, the Kidneymobile is a mobile health care unit that offers free health screenings and education in the hopes of preventing chronic kidney disease.

The van paid a visit to Chicago Tuesday in preparation for Thursday’s World Kidney Day. Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mobile health care units that provide screenings for vision or blood pressure may be more common, but the Kidneymobile offers a comprehensive approach to preventing kidney disease. Instead of a single screening or immunization injection, patients receive a battery of basic tests that offer a broader view of their health, all for free.

“Our usual screening consists of blood draw, urinalysis — looking for microscopic protein and blood in the urine — blood sugar, body mass index, waist circumference and blood pressure,” said Nancy Lepain, a nurse practitioner who travels with the van. “I think what we do is incredibly comprehensive, and it’s totally free.”

At least 26 million adults have chronic kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Since early stages of the disease have no symptoms, many more are at risk.

“Untreated high blood pressure and poorly controlled diabetes are the two major causes of kidney disease,” Lepain said. “Both of those diseases are easily treatable with the right medication. If we can get people with high blood pressure and diabetes well cared for, we can certainly decrease the number of people with chronic kidney disease.”

When a patient receives an abnormal test result at the screening, they are able to review the result with the on-site nurse practitioner the same day. Kidneymobile volunteers follow up later to make sure the patient is receiving care.

“We follow up with everyone that tests abnormal,” said Nicole Sisen, community programs manager at the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois. “They get a phone call four to six weeks after the screening. If they have a doctor, we ask that they make an appointment. And then we follow up again.”

Patients who don’t have insurance or a regular doctor receive referrals to places where they can get care.

Unfortunately, most patients that visit the Kidneymobile find themselves in need of further care.

“About 77 percent of the people that we screen have at least one abnormal value,” Lepain said. “And that’s excluding obesity. It’s been very few screenings that we’ve done where we haven’t found at least one person with undiagnosed diabetes. The numbers are very telling.”

The National Kidney Foundation of Illinois, which introduced the Kidneymobile in 2005, partners with community organizations to spread news of their visits. Thousands of people throughout Illinois have taken advantage of the Kidneymobile’s services.

“We usually have a great turnout for the screenings,” Lepain said. “I would say we average 75 to 100 people [each screening].”

“We take great pride in it,” Sisen said. “It’s the only traveling educational unit for kidney disease in the nation.”

While anyone is welcome at the free screenings, the National Kidney Foundation tries to reach those who are most in need.

“We try to locate our screening in areas that have large minority populations,” Lepain said. “African-Americans and Latinos are at much higher risk for developing kidney disease based on the incidence of diabetes and hypertension.”

For those who don’t have health insurance or can’t afford to visit a doctor, the Kidneymobile offers a chance to stay on top of their health. Chicago resident Juan Ramirez, 42, attended a Kidneymobile screening Tuesday to check up on his blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

“I have health insurance,” Ramirez said, “but they raised it so high. I have to pay a $700 or $800 deductible the first time I use it. For me it’s hard, because I just make minimum wage. Every time I see an opportunity like this, I prefer to take advantage of it.”

The Kidneymobile isn’t the only mobile health care unit making the rounds in Chicago. The University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital has a Pediatric Mobile Medical Unit and the Mobile C.A.R.E. Foundation operates Asthma Vans throughout the city. Norwegian American Hospital’s Care-A-Van brings pediatric care to the children of Humboldt Park.

Related Links:
Learn more about the Kidneymobile and how to request a visit
The Kidneymobile’s 2010 schedule
Care-A-Van takes free health care to the streets

See this article at the Medill News Service

‘Sick and tired’ of Wal-Mart’s sick-day policy

Posted in Medill News Service, Print, Video on July 19th, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment


By Lisa Owad
March 4, 2010
Medill News Service

As part of a national week of action against Wal-Mart’s sick leave policy, community activists gathered Wednesday at Chicago’s only Wal-Mart to protest. The “Wake Up Wal-Mart” campaign objects to the company’s practice of penalizing employees who use their paid sick days. Fearing they may lose their job, some employees return to work before they are well. Employees say this endangers the community’s health, as well as their own.
Related: Protestors rally against Wal-Mart’s sick-day practice

See this article at the Medill News Service

HeartFest educates in matters of the heart

Posted in Medill News Service, Print on July 19th, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

Balloons lead the way to St. Francis Hospital's annual HeartFest in Evanston, Ill. Lisa Owad/Medill

By Lisa Owad
Feb. 18, 2010
Medill News Service

A healthy cooking demonstration and free screenings for cholesterol, diabetes and blood pressure were features of the annual HeartFest event at Evanston’s St. Francis Hospital on Thursday. February is American Heart Month, and attendees were able to attend lectures, learn about healthy food and receive screenings.

Participants and organizers speak about the reasons people need events such as this.

“Last year we had a lot more people coming for free screenings. Last year we had a lot of patients come because it was free and they couldn’t afford it.”–Margo Schafer, director of public relations, St. Francis Hospital

Stella Wolfe, 77

“I’m here to learn and also here to take blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar screenings. I enjoyed the meditation.”–Stella Wolfe, 77









Laurence Rosen, 64

“I came for the cookies. I had the screenings. That’s the main thing. I have a doctor, but it’s too expensive.”
–Laurence Rosen, 64








Harice Leavitt, 80

“It’s free, conveniently located, I got the mailer and most of my physicians are here.”–Harice Leavitt, 80








Joseph Zawadzki, 74

“To get educated. This is an excellent forum for disseminating information about healthy heart. One can live to a ripe old age, hopefully.”–Joseph Zawadzki, 74





“I always come to the HeartFest to get my blood and sugar checked out. I learned some things I didn’t know. It’s convenient, free, and I stay on top of things. I get three things at once!”–Delores Walker

See this article at the Medill News Service

Will malpractice awards climb in wake of court ruling?

Posted in Medill News Service, Print on July 19th, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

Lisa Owad/Medill


By Lisa Owad
Feb. 17, 2010
Medill News Service

Although medical malpractice awards climbed in the years before Illinois put limits on them, opponents disagree on the impact of the recent Supreme Court’s ruling striking down the caps.

The average award for emotional harm in medical malpractice cases increased 437 percent in the seven years leading up to creation of the 2005 law capping non-economic damages, according to data from the Cook County Jury Verdict Reporter. Rates were highest in 2004, the year before award caps were enacted, with an average award of $4.8 million.

Chart: Lisa Owad/Medill

Physicians argue that high awards drive up insurance premiums and make health care more expensive.

“When the cap was reinstated in 2005, premiums for Chicago physicians stabilized and even began to shrink,” said J. James Rohack, president of the American Medical Association in a statement after the court ruling. Before caps on damages, premiums rose steadily 10 to 12 percent a year between 1997 and 2005, Rohack said.

The Medical Malpractice Act limited the amount victims could receive for emotional harm to $500,000 from doctors and $1 million from hospitals.The Illinois Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional earlier this month. This was the third time the court ruled against medical malpractice award caps.

Critics of award caps say the averages don’t tell the entire story.

“A single larger case can skew those numbers,” said Peter Flowers, president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. “So looking at [the award amounts] as an average, isn’t really a clear assessment.”

While the average award amount increased prior to 2005, state data show that only a small percentage of medical malpractice plaintiffs are awarded money. Only 4 percent of medical malpractice cases resulted in damage awards between 1998 and 2004, according to the Illinois Department of Insurance.

“Non-economic damages of any significance occur in a case of a terrible catastrophic event,” Flowers said. “It happens very rarely. It has very little impact on the overall system.”

Bruce Ottley, a professor at DePaul University’s College of Law, also said the ruling would have only minimal impact since few plaintiffs are ever awarded such large damages.

“There are a lot of us that don’t think it will make a noticeable impact on costs,” Ottley said. “The caps [were] fairly substantial. Judgments above that are fairly rare.”

However, cases that do not result in payout still have an impact, according to a 2005 study released by the Illinois State Medical Society and ISMIE Mutual Insurance Company. ISMIE is the largest liability insurance provider for Illinois physicians.

“Eighty percent of the claims filed against ISMIE Mutual policyholders result in no payment to the plaintiff,” the study said. However, between 2000 and 2005, ISMIE Mutual “paid over $150 million in defense costs for these non-meritorious claims.”

See this article at the Medill News Service

Getting the lead out: Rule targets Illinois’ top child environmental illness

Posted in Medill News Service, Print on July 19th, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

Lisa Owad/Medill


By Lisa Owad
Feb. 16, 2010
Medill News Service

The state took a step Tuesday to reduce lead poisoning, the No. 1 environmental illness in Illinois children, according to health officials.

In response to new federal regulations, the state hosted the first of several statewide sessions to explain new certification procedures for contractors.

The new Environmental Protection Agency rule on renovation and repair requires contractors working on any buildings built before 1978 or that are occupied by children to be certified in lead-safe practices. The rule goes into effect in April.

More than 5,000 Illinois children had elevated blood lead levels in 2008, exceeding any other state, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Children in Chicago are required to be tested for lead between the ages of six months and six years.

“Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, language processing disorders, shortened attention span and behavioral problems,” according to a plan released by the public health department in 2004. At high levels, lead can cause organ damage and death.

Lead poisoning is most commonly caused by deteriorating lead-based paint, lead-contaminated dust and lead-contaminated residential soil, according to the EPA.

“Lead-abatement, for the most part, waits until a child gets sick first,” said Nicholas Peneff, owner of Public Health and Safety, Inc. in Chicago. “We’re trying to prevent that. We’re trying to treat the house first.” Peneff’s company is an EPA and state-accredited training center where contractors can earn certification in lead-safe practices.

Without certification, contractors will face a fine of $37,500 for each day they work. “It’s all regulated now,” Peneff said. “It’s federal. They’ll stop you from advertising, from working in pre-1978 houses.”

The required training focuses on lead-safe work habits. “If you are going to damage or remove something, you try to do so without disturbing the finish,” Peneff said. “You work wet, so it keeps the dust down. Lead is in the dust.”

Most of the contractors Peneff sees at his training sessions are eager to comply. “They’re proud of their work,” Peneff said. “They don’t want to be embarrassed.”

But contractors are not without their concerns.

“People either think they’re going to lose work, or that it’s going to prove there is lead,” Peneff said. “Once you call it lead, if anything goes wrong, most insurance companies have an insurance exclusion. They have to become environmental contractors [with the new rule], but they can’t get insurance to protect their work.”

Related Links:
Find out about informational meetings for Illinois contractors

See this article at the Medill News Service

Chicago beats first lady to the punch

Posted in Medill News Service, Print on July 19th, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

By Lisa Owad
Feb. 11, 2010
Medill News Service

A new program to fight childhood obesity will soon be under way in Chicago. “I Am Moving, I Am Learning,” sponsored by Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services, is expected to reach children in March.

The program, which has been in the works for more than a year, follows Tuesday’s announcement of Michelle Obama’s anti-childhood obesity campaign, “Let’s Move.”

“The idea is to get children moving throughout the day,” said Paulette Mercurius, an assistant director of Head Start programs in Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services. Head Start programs are offered nationwide to help children get a jump on their education.

“Our programs are required to provide meals for children,” Mercurius said. “We look at the menu choices. In addition to that, we educate parents about choices for their children and the children themselves. That’s all incorporated into their daily routine.”

Teachers are also given CDs, along with dances designed for limited classroom space.

“We know that kids like to dance, like to move,” said Vanessa Rich, deputy commissioner of the Department of Family and Support Services. “You don’t have to separate it. It can be an integral part of every day.”

In 2004, “I Am Moving, I Am Learning” started in 17 Head Start locations in Virginia and West Virginia. Its goals are to increase the quantity and quality of time children spend in moderate to vigorous activity and to improve healthy nutrition choices for kids.

“We make it real,” Rich said. “Some of our children will never see Brussels sprouts unless it’s in Head Start.”

Sponsors of “I Am Moving, I Am Learning” say they hope the program will expand through their partnership with other community organizations, such as the Chicago Park District and the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children.

“The thing that’s really unique about Chicago,” said Christy Kierig, communications manager for the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, “is that we’ve been mobilized in Chicago since 2003.”

One of their campaigns, called 5-4-3-2-1, Kierig said, is a “daily recommendation for healthy lifestyles for kids and families.”

Illinois is the 10th-worst state for childhood obesity, according to a 2007 survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with 34.9 percent of the state’s children overweight or obese. The National Survey of Children’s Health ranked the weight of children aged 10 to 17.

Sidebar:
Related Links:
Let’s Move
CLOCC’s 5-4-3-2-1 campaign to fight childhood obesity

5-4-3-2-1: Fighting childhood obesity on a daily basis
5 – Servings of fruits and vegetables
4 – Servings of water
3 – Servings of low-fat dairy
2 – Or less hours of screen time
1 – Or more hours of physical activity
Source: The Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children

See this article at the Medill News Service

Medical Malpractice Act overturned

Posted in Medill News Service, Print on July 19th, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

Jeff Goldberg, attorney for Abigaile LeBron, displays a photo of his client during a press conference. Abigaile suffered severe brain damage at birth. Lisa Owad/Medill

By Lisa Owad
Feb. 4, 2010
Medill News Service

The Illinois Supreme Court overturned a law capping non-economic awards for medical malpractice Thursday. While supporters applaud the decision as a victory for patients’ rights, advocates for the caps worry the ruling will increase insurance costs, affecting the quality of care.

“Today marks the third time that the Illinois Supreme Court has declared those laws unconstitutional,” Peter Flowers, president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, said at a press conference Thursday. “We are here today on behalf of the trial lawyers and Illinois citizens to say enough. Three strikes and you’re out.”

The Medical Malpractice Act of 2005 limited the amount medical malpractice victims could receive for emotional harm to $500,000 from doctors and $1 million from hospitals. Thursday’s ruling stemmed from LeBron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, the first case to challenge the 2005 law. Abigaile LeBron was born with severe brain damage in 2005 and sued for medical malpractice. The case is still pending.

The decision comes on a day the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated that health care spending increased by $134 billion in the past year, the largest one-year jump recorded.

“Overturning this law further strains our state’s already-failing health care system,” James L. Milam, M.D., Illinois State Medical Society president, said in a press release issued by ISMIE Mutual Insurance Company. “Losing medical lawsuit reform heaps even greater pressure on patients and doctors.”

ISMIE is the largest provider of liability insurance to physicians in Illinois.

The American Medical Association agreed. “Today’s court decision threatens to undo all that Illinois patients and physicians have gained under the cap,” J. James Rohack, M.D., the president of AMA, said in a press release. “When the cap was reinstated in 2005, premiums for Chicago physicians stabilized and even began to shrink.” Before caps on damages, premiums rose steadily 10 to 12 percent a year between 1997 and 2005, Rohack said.

Jeff Goldberg, the attorney for Abigaile hopes that the decision will be a wake-up call. “We hope…that the legislature will wake up and the insurance industry will stop trying to limit the rights arbitrarily for people that are severely injured and are the victims of medical negligence,” Goldberg said.

However, at least one attorney thought the ruling would have only minimal impact since few plaintiffs are ever awarded such large damages.

“There are a lot of us that don’t think it will make a noticeable impact on costs,” said Professor Bruce Ottley at DePaul University’s College of Law. “The caps (were) fairly substantial. Judgments above that are fairly rare.”

See this article at the Medill News Service

Sharing smiles: Working to improve oral health

Posted in Medill News Service, Print on July 19th, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

Community workers at the Sharing Smiles Roundtable learn about improving oral health. Lisa Owad/Medill

By Lisa Owad
Jan. 28, 2010
Medill News Service

Children are more likely to have tooth decay than they are to have any chronic infectious disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And yet, children are nearly 3 times more likely to lack dental insurance than health insurance, according to the CDC. Those who live in poverty, both children and adults, suffer more than twice the amount of tooth decay, also known as dental caries.

“Oral health care is one of the biggest challenges in public health that exist today,” said Dr. Lee Francis, president and CEO of Erie Family Health Center in Chicago. On average, children who visit the Erie Family Dental clinic have five to six cavities.

A week before the start of February’s National Children’s Dental Health Month, the Sharing Smiles Roundtable, a seminar held by Erie Family Health Center, met in Humboldt Park. Members of community organizations like Advocate Health Care, Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago and Community Health gathered to discuss oral health care in Chicago.

Children with oral health problems have trouble focusing in school and can face harsh ridicule from their peers. The CDC estimates that children miss more than 51 million hours of school each year from dental-related illnesses.

“There is no cure for dental caries,” said Dr. Ghassan Souri, the vice president of oral health services at Erie Family Health Care at the Roundtable. “But it is 100 percent preventable.”

The roundtable participants were instructed in good dental hygiene, as well as given strategies for finding affordable dental care.

“I have dental insurance, but it doesn’t cover enough. I end up spending too much money, so I still avoid going to the dentist,” said Janece Simmons, a roundtable participant from the West Humboldt Park Development Council.

Oral health can also affect a person’s overall health. Diabetes, heart disease and low infant birth weight have all been linked to poor oral health. “When we work on someone’s mouth, we make the rest of them healthy,” Dr. Francis said.

Sidebar:
Related Links:
Find a free or sliding scale dental clinic in Chicago
Information about Erie Family Dental Clinics

CDC Tips for Improving Oral Health in Children:
What Can Parents and Caregivers Do?

• Pregnant women should get prenatal care and eat a healthy diet that includes folic acid to prevent neural tube defects and possibly cleft lip/palate. During pregnancy avoid tobacco and alcohol, and check with a doctor before taking any medications.

• Put only water in your baby’s bottle at bedtime or naptime. Milk, formula, juices, and other drinks contain sugar. Prolonged exposure to sugary drinks while baby sleeps – when saliva flow is reduced – increases the risk of tooth decay.

• Take your child for an oral health assessment between ages 1-2, and every six months thereafter.

• Protect your child’s teeth with fluoride. Use a fluoridated toothpaste, putting only a pea-sized amount on your child’s toothbrush. If your drinking water is not fluoridated, talk to a dentist or physician about the best way to protect your child’s teeth.

• Encourage your children to eat regular nutritious meals and to avoid frequent between-meal snacking.

• Talk to your child’s dentist about dental sealants, which protect teeth from decay.

• Make sure your child wears a helmet when bicycling and uses protective headgear and mouth guards in other sports activities.

*Suggestions provided by the Centers for Disease Control

See this article at the Medill News Service