The Hawai‘i Oral Health Coalition (HOHC) has been hard at work for the first quarter expanding efforts to improve oral health in our state. With over 30 members from Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Maui and Big Island, prevention, advocacy and access have been the key areas of focus for our members. The Prevention and Access Committee has been meeting via Zoom to explore possible options for improving children’s oral health and our Leadership Council has been expanding efforts to grow our coalition’s membership and engagement. Many strides have been taken this quarter to unify and grow membership participation.

On February 14, 2020, Governor David Ige signed a proclamation declaring the month of February as Children’s Oral Health Month. Members of the coalition, as well as the Hawai‘i Public Health Institute, and the Hawai‘i Children’s Action Network, took part in meeting with Governor Ige. This proclamation was a huge milestone for the oral health community since it highlights the importance of oral health, not only for children, but for adults as well. Mahalo to Dr. Tony Kim, HOHC Chair, who was able to provide remarks at the proclamation presentation.

In addition, two large oral health events took place in February The Hawai‘i Dental Service hosted an event on February 16 offering free dental screenings, games, prizes and educational sessions on good oral hygiene. The event reached over five hundred Hawaii Dental Service (HDS) members and Medicaid beneficiaries. This event was a huge success in showing children how important it is to brush their teeth and the correct way to do so.  A second event, hosted by the Hawai‘i Dental Association Foundation (HDAF) on February 29, offered free dental education and preventative services to all children eighteen years or younger. The event treated over three hundred and fifty children and HDAF continues to offer services at select public schools. 

The advocacy committees have been making their voices heard at the Capital with efforts to reinstate adult dental benefits under Medicaid. Up to this point, both bills in the House and Senate have made it past the financial committees and have crossed over to the other chamber. Mahalo to the HOHC advocacy committee for their leadership in these efforts and to all who have been submitting testimony. Take a look at our Oral Health bill tracker (once in, you must click on the Oral Health tab).  For more information about the Oral Health Coalition please visit:  https://www.hawaiioralhealthcoalition.org/.