FLUORIDE DATE LECTURE #51, PTS 1 & 2 - COUNCIL CLUELESS ON WHAT (IF ANYTHING) CITY SPENDS FOR LOW-INCOME KIDS' DENTAL CARE, MAYOR ADMITS 3-22-12
Olenicks Deliver a Quick 1-2; Mayor Looks Silly
Good afternoon, Mayor and Council Members. Earlier this month I attended a public forum called “My Health, My Voice” at Reagan High School. It was sponsored by the Austin-Travis County Public Health & Human Services Department and is the first of a series of eight such events to be held—one each month— in various Travis County Title 1 school districts. There were free medical screenings, information tables sponsored by the likes of WIC and Any Baby Can, and presentations. Power points covering issues like diet, exercise, obesity, medical conditions and, of course, the usual self-congratulatory reports on PHHS’s multi-million dollar CDC anti-smoking grants consumed well over an hour.
Of that time, perhaps five minutes were devoted to dental health. We learned that a private charitable organization—the St. David’s Foundation—provides for the dental needs of economically disadvantaged elementary school children in the region through a program which brings mobile dentist offices to their schools. This seemed like one realistic way to address the explosion of oral disease every major national, state, foundation, and dental association report since 2000 has warned is occurring among our nation’s low income children. It certainly makes more sense than wasting the $385k to $1million—depending on who you believe—the city annually pays for useless water fluoridation. I turned to the St. David’s Foundation website, and here’s what I learned. During 2010, volunteer dental personnel operating out of the well-equipped vans:
1. Served 4,700 low-income children ages approximately 5-11 with procedures ranging from routine cleaning and filling to root canals, extractions and urgent care.
2. Taught 28,000 children and their parents how to brush and floss properly.
3. Rendered $4.2 million in free dental services in Central Texas.
From what I can tell, the city pays little out of its own budget toward this exemplary program. Granted it does “partner” with the school districts involved, which are already receiving federal funds, and under that bureaucratic buzzword “partner” lies a murky maze of fiscal relationships with which I can’t claim familiarity. So if anyone on the dais has a figure on how much the city actually pays toward direct dental care for Austin’s neediest children I’d welcome it. Does any one of you?
[at this point, Bill Spelman--an expression of pure perplexity on his face--shook his head no. Mayor Leffingwell then admitted that nobody on the dais was qualified to answer the question. Mike Martinez, chair of the Council's Public Health and Human Services Committee, made no response.]
Van Photo-Opped in Front of City Hall Isn't Paid For by the City
The numbers Rae Just gave you of children served by the St. David's dental van program represent only those of elementary school age, approximately 5 to 11. What about younger children? Tooth decay is a big problem among toddlers, even babies, today. What about those who are older than 11 or living outside of the districts served? Not all these youngsters reside in Austin, so there is overlap. But the upshot is that there's a great dental need out there which the city of Austin's water fluoridation is doing nothing to mitigate.
The last 40 minutes of the Forum were devoted to facilitated small-group discussions. It was better than most such staged Delphi palavers. There were nop parlor games, just a few relatively straightforward questions to toss around. Such as "What would a healthy Austin look like to you?" Fair enough.
Our facilitator, who was none less than the PHHS communications director, seemed startled that fluoride could be on anybody's radar, but she asked for some further information. We sent it to her along with a question about which other school districts would host future forums. She never got back with us. However, the next two events--which will take place in Del Valle and Manor--are now posted on the Public Health and Human Services website.
Last month's forum at Reagan High School was held in our own neighborhood, so we felt right at home. And even though there seemed to be as many PHHS personnel as actual neighborhood participants on hand, it was still a worthwhile occasion. We didn't get near the health screenings to see what they were screening for, but there were plenty of vans around. It was also a chance to educate people about fluoride, both during the discussion sessions and informal milling-around time. Several of the WIC mothers hadn't seen the posted non-warnings about dental fluorosis, so we were able to let them know.
We encourage everyone to attend one or more forums and share their information about fluoride. The next one takes place TONIGHT, March 22, 6-8 p.m. at the Del Valle ISD Opportunity Center, 5301 Ross Road B in Del Valle.
For more information, go to www.austintexas.gov/healthforum or call 512-972-5888.