State Launches Statewide Oral Health Ad Campaign; Ads Aim to Increase Use of Children’s Oral Health Services

For Immediate Release: September 9, 2004

Contacts: Jason Gibbs, Governor’s Office
(802) 828-3333
Nancy Erickson, Dept. of Health
(802) 863-7285

BURLINGTON - This week, the Vermont Department of Health launched the first of three media campaigns aimed at parents and caregivers of Medicaid-eligible children. This first campaign is part of the “Back to School” effort to promote Dr. Dynasaur health insurance enrollment, and aims to raise awareness and use of oral health services for children of Vermont’s lower-income families.

The radio, television and print ads, developed from qualitative research and tested for effectiveness with the target audience, will run through mid-October in media statewide. The ads were designed and produced in Vermont, using real Vermont kids. The campaign is part of the department’s Oral Health Initiative funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“Part of being healthy is having healthy teeth,” said Health Commissioner Paul Jarris, MD. “We want to make sure that every child gets the chance to keep a healthy smile through regular dental checkups and care to prevent tooth decay.”

The campaign includes a new toll-free helpline, 1-888-9VT-SMILE, which will emphasize the need to see a dentist regularly and how to make and keep appointments. Callers will be provided with age-appropriate oral care guidelines for their children, information on who to call about Dr. Dynasaur insurance, transportation, questions or problems, and a list of licensed dentists and Tooth Tutor (school-based oral health) programs.

Dr. Dynasaur is the state’s health insurance program for Vermont children administered by both the Vermont Department of Health and the Office of Vermont Health Access. Dr. Dynasaur also covers oral health care services. It has broad income guidelines. For example, a family of four earning $56,000 can get coverage for their kids. Families can be eligible for Dr. Dynasaur even if the parents are working or have other health insurance.

In Vermont, 52 percent of children participate in Dr. Dynasaur, Vermont’s state-funded health insurance program for children. The Douglas Administration had made outreach to eligible families a high priority.

Vermont’s Oral Health Initiative is a three-year demonstration grant funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, managed by the Center for Health Care Strategies. The grant is designed to improve access to oral health services for children of lower-income, minority and disabled populations in Vermont. The Initiative strives to improve access and increase awareness of preventive oral health practices.

The multi-pronged approach to improving access to oral health care includes the media campaign, dentist recruitment and retention efforts, and expanding the school-based Tooth Tutor program. Additional funding for the Tooth Tutor program has allowed the Vermont Department of Health to more than double the number of participating schools and serve an additional 2500 children.

Vermont is one of six states nationwide selected to receive funding. Other funded states are Arizona, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Oregon.