Something to chew on: The need for kids’ oral health care in the Valley

UPDATE: Read the full story – A dental crisishere.


When Clinica Sierra Vista CEO Stephen Schilling told me about the dramatic need for children’s oral health care in California, I was surprised, to say the least.

What about asthma or obesity?

“Epidemiologically, you will find that untreated oral health concerns are our greatest public health children’s challenge in California,” Schilling said.

That idea spurred me to investigate the need for dental care for San Joaquín Valley children, especially Latino kids.

Here are some of the statistics I’ve learned, courtesy of the organization Children Now:

  • The problem: The Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health cited tooth decay as the most common chronic childhood disease in the nation
  • Who it affects: Low-income kids are at a higher risk of suffering from dental disease.
  • The short-term impact: More than 500,000 kids in California missed one or more school days as a result of oral health problems
  • The long-term impact: Poor oral health is linked to other health problems, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and, for women, premature births.

You can read more about this serious – and under-recognized – health issue in next week’s edition of Vida en el Valle.

For now, I encourage you to check out the videos included in the post. The videos depict the oral health curriculum at the Orange Cove Migrant Head Start.

Could it be a Big Fresno (Health) Fair?

For this week’s edition of Vida, I wrote a short story about the measures the Big Fresno Fair takes to ensure patrons’ health and safety.

I was happy to learn that the fair – which runs from Oct. 6 to Oct. 17 – will offer hand-washing demonstrations, educational information about flu vaccinations, and whooping cough vaccinations on Oct. 7.

But I think the Big Fresno Fair could do even more to promote community health.

In my opinion, the fair – the fifth largest in the state – is the perfect opportunity to get the message out about obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.

It would also be the perfect opportunity to offer a health clinic. Wouldn’t it be cool if one of our local clinics could set up a mobile clinic at the fair, as Clinica Sierra Vista did during the Mexican Bicentennial celebrations on Fresno’s Fulton Mall a few weeks ago?

Now I’m going to hatch a big plan: The Big Fresno Fair overlaps with Binational Health Week, a huge mobilization effort intended to improve the health and well-being of underserved Latinos in the U.S. and Canada. During Binational Health Week, there will be free health fairs and health clinics throughout the San Joaquín Valley.

Wouldn’t it be cool if the Big Fresno Fair partnered with Binational Health Week and offered a free health clinic on Sunday, Oct. 17 – the last day of both events, and the day the fair typically draws the most Latino patrons? That way, fair-going families could get a free medical check-up, and then head over to the Paul Paul Theater to hear the popular Argentine band Enanitos Verdes for free.

I know holding a Big Fresno (Health) Fair would take a huge amount of planning, but it sounds good in my community health dream world.

I’ll be at the fairgrounds in the next few weeks to check out the fair’s heart-healthy food map and its new farmers market exhibit. Check back to this blog, or follow me on Twitter (@HarvestHealth) for updates from the fair.