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Supporting School-Based Oral Health Through Community Action & Advocacy June 2024

Supporting School-Based Oral Health Through Community Action & Advocacy

Lt. Governor Sylvia Luke presents Governor’s proclamation, Children’s Dental Health Month, to HOHC and community partners at the Hawai‘i Dental Service Foundation Tooth Fairy Day event; February 25, 2024.

In the wake of the February 2024 Governor’s proclamation recognizing Children’s Dental Health Month in Hawai‘i, the Hawai‘i Oral Health Coalition (HOHC) and community partners carried statewide advocacy efforts to the finish line with sights set on increasing access to preventive dental care in schools.

According to the Department of Health, Hawai‘i ranks highest in the country in children’s oral health conditions. In fact, nearly one out of four third graders in Hawai‘i have untreated tooth decay signifying that many children are not accessing the dental care they need. However, community-led oral health advocacy has taken yet another significant stride in narrowing the gap.

As school-based dental programs are beginning to re-emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, innovative place-based care models are growing in number and strengthening efficacy across the state. To support these critical community programs, HOHC and Hawai‘i Children’s Action Network leadership solidified partnerships with key legislative allies to advance a bill that allows dental hygienists to apply dental sealants in school-based settings without requiring burdensome administrative practices that have previously limited a program’s potential. More importantly, school-based sealant programs are proven to be an efficient and cost-effective approach to addressing critical access barriers among low-income school children and the resulting disparities seen in Hawai‘i.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of community advocates and legislative champions for oral health, SB 2476 has been enrolled to Governor Josh Green for signature. As this bill is set to take effect upon approval, school-based dental programs are eager to pick up the next school year with newfound flexibility and thousands of keiki and will soon see better access to the preventive health services in the very places in which they learn, grow, and play.

To learn more about HOHC, our work, and our community-led advocacy initiatives, contact us at

Kathy Gikbay

Kathy Gikbay

Hawai‘i Oral Health Coalition and Community Health Worker Initiatives Program Assistant
Patrick Donnelly

Patrick Donnelly

Program Manager: Hawai'i Oral Health Coalition
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