Beating the Federal government to the punch, last week the Victorian Coalition Government announced it has delivered on its election pledge to establish an innovative new program to promote better oral health among children and pregnant women.
Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development Wendy Lovell officially launched the Healthy Families, Healthy Smiles program at the Royal Dental Hospital last Friday.
“The Victorian Coalition Government is delivering on its $11.17 million election commitment to strengthen public dental services,” Ms Lovell said.
“As part of this commitment, we delivered $2 million for the Healthy Families, Healthy Smiles program, which aims to improve the oral health of Victorian children aged 0-3 years and pregnant women.”
Healthy Families, Healthy Smiles is a partnership between the Victorian Department of Health and Dental Health Services Victoria.
Ms Lovell said the program would boost the skills of health professionals, such as midwives, as well as early childhood workers to be better able to promote oral health, including healthy eating and drinking.
“Health and early childhood professionals would be able to use these new oral health promotion skills as part of their everyday work,” Ms Lovell said.
“Through their existing relationships, these professionals are well placed to help families introduce good oral health practices and make healthier food and drink choices.
“Professionals receiving training include midwives involved in antenatal health care, maternal and child health nurses, Aboriginal health workers, child care educators, playgroup facilitators and the early intervention services workforce.
“It will also include family support workers, general practitioners and practice nurses, refugee nurses, dieticians and other allied health professionals,” Ms Lovell said.
Dental Health Services Victoria is currently trialing the Midwifery Initiated Oral Health e-learning package – a first of its kind in Victoria – that is improving oral health knowledge among midwives across metropolitan and rural Victoria.
Ms Lovell said dental conditions are the third most common preventable reason children aged under five are admitted to hospital.
“Early childhood is a critical time when lifetime habits are established. Research has shown that early childhood tooth decay influences long term oral health as well as general health and wellbeing,” Ms Lovell said.
“Pregnant women are also at an increased risk of gum disease and there are associations between advanced gum disease and premature and low birth weight babies.
“Health and early childhood professionals, when armed with the right tools, are therefore well placed to help establish healthy smiles among children for life,” Ms Lovell said.
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