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The I-Smile™ Dental Home Project

I had the great pleasure interviewing an I-Smile™ coordinator for Pottawattamie and Mills County in Western Iowa. This coordinator is full of enthusiasm, passion, and heart. I was left in awe and grateful that she chose this path in public health. She is helping to touch lives by educating the public and the populations that she works with along with forming valuable coalitions along the way.

I am proud to say she is a member of the Northwest Component. That special person is Linda Meyers. She has been a practicing hygienist for 34 years and has been an I-Smile™ coordinator for the last 8 years. She is 1 of 22 coordinators across the state that works under the Public Health Supervision Agreement within the I-Smile™ program.  I could have stayed and asked more questions and picked her brain more, but it was after work, so we both had to get going to our second job, our families.

Q: Are we making a dent in Public Health…and reaching the populations that the program was intended for?
A: Yes we are making a difference. Stats are increasing yearly and IDPH reports can be viewed at      http://www.idph.state.ia.us/ohds/OralHealth.aspx?prog=OHC&pg=Reports which is on the Iowa Department of Public Health site linked into the Bureau of Oral Health Delivery Systems. I also encourage everyone to visit the I-Smile™ site at http://www.ismiledentalhome.iowa.gov/  to read more about this program. The expansion of the sealant program is growing yearly which is a plus to reaching children in the schools.

Q:  What is the biggest challenge?
A:  There are multiple challenges. We are still not getting the 0-3 age group into the dental offices. Providers for these Medicaid eligible children are limited and this is the Access to Care issue that we continue to fight. Tap water is used less today than in years past. Legislative issues keep our hands tied, for example, when it comes to personnel. Currently, no dental assistants or DH students can be used so this slows down the process and limits the amount of children we can see.

Q:  What is the best part for you working as an I-Smile™ coordinator/public health?
A:  I love networking with the different agencies and collaborating with groups. I enjoy opening the public’s eye. I enjoy coming in contact with other like-minded professionals. I like getting people to value dentistry that don’t have the proper dental education. I think it is good that we use education to promote prevention.

Q: What is your short term goal?
A:  To get the sealant program concrete so it is sustainable. Last year we saw children in 6 schools, 11 are scheduled for this year.

Q:  Long term goal?
A:  Our long term goal is to increase Access to Care for the 0-3 age group. We need preventive care and education for the parents so we can see a decline in tooth decay. I also think for another long term goal would be to get an oral health coalition established in my service area. This coalition would do needs assessment and come up with a plan to eliminate the needs etc.

Q: Can you name a couple of great accomplishments?
A: I received the ADHA Wrigley’s Grant in 2012. It was for a sealant program (ground work) in the Council Bluffs Community School system. I also  coordinate the Council Bluffs  “Give a Kid a Smile” event.  Last year we had 5 offices that participated and saw 150 children. My goal this year is to see more children. I am always looking for volunteers to help and other offices to participate. It is held on the first Friday of February and this year it will be February 6th, 2015.

Q: Why is it important to be a member of IDHA?
A: IDHA was a key factor for the push for Public Health Supervision agreement and without that push the I-Smile™ program would not be reaching the target populations with much needed services. It would be just an advising or consulting service.

As we concluded our interview, I left knowing that a very energetic public health hygienist is working hard to tie all the education and resources together to maximize Access to Care.

I-Smile™ programs across the state are vital to reaching out to Title V, low income target populations. I encourage any hygienist that might be interested in public health to get in touch with an I-Smile™ coordinator and volunteer to learn and help them continue a much needed program.
Angie Kelley RDH, BS

Linda Meyers, RDH Nadine DeVoss, RDH, BS & Linda Meyers, RDH at the Back to School Health Bash in Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs    
Linda Meyers, RDH Nadine DeVoss, RDH, BS & Linda Meyers, RDH at the Back to School Health Bash in Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs