Evaluation of a Comprehensive Oral Health Services Program in School-Based Health Centers

Matern Child Health J. 2018 Jul;22(7):998-1007. doi: 10.1007/s10995-018-2478-1.


Objectives In 2011, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, within the Health Resources and Services Administration, awarded a 4-year grant to increase access to and assure the delivery of quality oral health preventive and restorative services to children. The grant was awarded to organizations serving high-need communities through school-based health centers (SBHCs). This article describes an independent evaluation investigating program efficacy, integration, and sustainability. Methods Program process and outcomes data were gathered from interim and final reports. Interviews with key informants were conducted by phone, and analyzed in NVivo qualitative software. Results Students had great need for comprehensive services: on average, 45% had dental caries at enrollment. Enrollment increased from 5000 to more than 9700, and the percent receiving preventive services increased from 58 to 88%. Results of the analytically weighted linear regression show statistically significant increases in the proportion of enrollees who had their teeth cleaned in the past year (t(4) = 5.19, β = 8.85, p < 0.05) and those receiving overall preventive services (t(4) = 13.52, β = 10.93, p < 0.01). Grantees integrated into existing programs using clear, consistent, and open communication. Grantees sustained the full suite of services beyond the grant period by increasing billing and insurance claims while still offering free and reduced-cost services to those uninsured or otherwise unable to pay. Conclusions for Practice This project demonstrates that access to comprehensive oral health care for children can be expanded through SBHCs. State Title V Block Grant and other similar federal initiatives can learn from the strategic approaches used to overcome challenges in the school-based environment.

Keywords: Evaluation; Oral health; Program efficacy; Program integration; Program sustainability; School-based health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Dental Caries
  • Dental Health Services*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Oral Health
  • Preventive Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Program Evaluation / methods*
  • School Dentistry / organization & administration*
  • School Health Services / organization & administration*