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Advocating for Oklahoma’s Most Vulnerable

By: Joe Dorman, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy

At the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA),  we work to improve the quality of life for the state’s children. Fighting to make children’s health a priority is at the core of our mission. Studies show us that dental care is something on which we should never skimp. Early adoption of good dental hygiene practices, access to dental care, and access to healthy foods promote general health and self-esteem that fuels a bright, confident smile.

The various state programs designed to support the health, well-being, and safety of children often face challenges when it comes to connecting with the populations to which they are targeted. As such, the OICA recommends a variety of efforts to better link these programs with the children they are designed to assist, as well as further continuity and enhancement of such programs as is prudent or necessary.

This legislative session, the OICA is recommending  continued funding of the “Double Up Oklahoma” (DUO) program   to match the value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollars spent at participating farmers markets and grocery stores to promote healthy food choices among lower-income households and families.

Food insecurity and oral health are intricately linked, forming a vicious cycle that often exacerbates health disparities. When individuals experience food insecurity, they may lack access to a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients, including vitamins and minerals crucial for maintaining oral health. This deficiency can lead to an increased risk of dental problems such as tooth decay, gum disease, and oral infections. Additionally, limited financial resources may result in individuals delaying or forgoing necessary dental care, further worsening oral health outcomes.  Poor oral health can also contribute to food insecurity by causing pain and discomfort that hinders the ability to eat nutritious foods comfortably.

Additionally, OICA recommends implementation of a streamlined enrollment system for all assistance programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Children’s Health Insurance Program  (CHIP), Women, Infant, and Children’s Program (WIC), and SoonerCare to make the application process easier and seamless for residents to obtain the assistance for which they qualify. For those families who cannot afford dental care, SoonerCare, the state’s Medicaid program, can be a lifesaver. We at OICA have been working with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma  to help inform families about how to get SoonerCare, or if they are no longer covered by SoonerCare the other options available to them. For information on SoonerCare or other options, click myOKplan.org or call 833-465-7526.

In any case, giving children’s dental care a priority is an investment in their general wellbeing, now and in the years to come. It creates the foundation for a lifetime of excellent health and self-assurance in addition to guaranteeing a brilliant smile. Beyond preventing cavities, children’s dental care establishes the groundwork for lifelong good behaviors. Primary teeth serve as substitutes for permanent teeth, which influences healthy eating and speech development. Regular dental checkups are the first step in preventing oral health issues. Oral health professionals can identify problems early and provide prompt intervention as well as instruction on appropriate care. Early brushing and flossing not only helps prevent cavities but also develops a sense of responsibility in children. Begin early, give your child lots of love and attention, and watch them grow into confident, active adults.

 

The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) was launched in 1983 by a group of citizens as the result of an investigative report by the national news media which exposed a horrific story of cruelty and abuse experienced by Oklahoma children who were in the state’s custody. That media report, “Oklahoma Shame,” spurred child advocates from every corner of the state into action to create an organization whose mission was to ensure the protection of Oklahoma’s children. OICA was established to create a strong advocacy network that would provide a voice for the needs of children and youth in Oklahoma, particularly those in the state’s care and those growing up amid poverty, violence, abuse and neglect, disparities, or other situations that put their lives and future at risk.