Building a Pediatric Oral Health Training Curriculum for Community Health Workers

J Public Health Manag Pract. 2018 May/Jun;24(3):e9-e18. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000582.


Objectives: Community health workers (CHWs) are a promising approach to oral health promotion in high-risk populations. This article describes the process of creating a pediatric oral health CHW training curriculum.

Design: Existing curricula were identified through outreach efforts to experts in the oral health and CHW fields, as well as PubMed and Google searches. After coding basic information, curricula were mapped to define oral health domains. Then group discussion was employed to determine final curriculum contents.

Setting: United States.

Inclusion criteria: Curricula were included if they addressed oral health, were in English or Spanish, involved US populations, did not target dental clinicians, and whether sufficient data could be obtained.

Main outcome measures: Curricula were evaluated for delivery format, number of hours, target audience, inclusion of CHWs, completeness, and oral health content.

Results: Eighteen unique curricula were identified; 14 (78%) were CHW specific. Pathologic factors, caries formation, toothbrushing basics, flossing, nutrition, sugar-sweetened beverages, oral health recommendations, baby bottle tooth decay, fluoride treatments, and fluoride were covered to some extent in 75% of curricula. More than half did not mention types of teeth, oral health during pregnancy, antifluoride, cultural humility, and special needs populations. After comparing CHW curricula with non-CHW curricula, the original 26 oral health domains were condensed into 10 CHW training domains.

Conclusion: Using existing evidence and expert insight, an oral health CHW training curriculum outline was created that emphasizes behaviors, social support, and navigation assistance to promote preventive oral health behaviors in families of young children. This has implications beyond oral health. CHW programs are expanding to address the social determinants of health. The process of creating this curriculum and its basic elements can be applied to other disease areas. Clearly defined trainings that are made publicly available, such as this one, support efforts to standardize the CHW field in preparation for CHW certification and reimbursement in the future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Community Health Workers / education*
  • Community Health Workers / statistics & numerical data
  • Curriculum / trends
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Oral Health / education*
  • Oral Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Pediatrics / methods*
  • Tooth / anatomy & histology
  • Tooth / physiopathology
  • Toothbrushing / methods
  • United States