While Virginia has made great strides in making dental benefits for enrollees in the FAMIS and FAMIS Plus programs (the FAMIS programs) easier to use and more comprehensive, a large portion of enrollees never use their dental benefits! In fact, in Virginia during state Fiscal Year 2012, there were 600,153 children aged 3-20 enrolled in the FAMIS programs. Sadly, 39% of them did not see a dentist at all during the year.
There are a number of ways that you can help promote the dental benefits that are available to enrollees of the FAMIS programs, including:
- Educating yourself about the Smiles For Children program;
- Informing colleagues and clients about Smile For Children; and
- Using Children's Dental Health Month as a way to promote the dental benefits of the FAMIS programs AND to encourage more parents to enroll their children in the FAMIS programs.
Children's Dental Health Month
Each February the American Dental Association (ADA) sponsors National Children's Dental Health Month (NCDHM) to raise awareness about the importance of oral health for children of all ages. Over the years, NCDHM messages and materials have reached millions of people in communities across the country.
Whether you're an outreach worker, a member of a dental team, a teacher or a parent, the ADA has free online resources that can help you with oral health presentations, ideas for classrooms and coloring and activity sheets that can be used as handouts.
Outreach workers across the nation have been known to use Children's Dental Health Month, and the available materials, as a way to not only promote good oral health, but also to recruit parents who may have children who are eligible for the FAMIS programs. Many parents do not know that dental services are provided by the FAMIS programs and this can be a particularly attractive benefit.
Examples of how Outreach Workers have used Children's Dental Health Month as a recruitment or educational tool include:
Writing a Letter to the Editor about Children's Dental Health Month and letting the public know that dental benefits are a part of the FAMIS programs. This may also be a good opportunity to thank public officials, organizations or individuals who have supported FAMIS, the expansion of FAMIS or have been strong advocates or referral sources;
Partnering with local dentists or the health department to write an article for the local paper, or speak on a local cable access or radio program, to promote Children's Dental Health Month and the dental benefits of the FAMIS programs;
Planning an event to highlight Children's Dental Health Month. For example, you could invite the parents of the children you have helped apply for FAMIS to an educational session on FAMIS dental benefits. You could also have a dentist (who accepts FAMIS and FAMIS Plus) talk about the importance of basic oral health care. Work with dentists and see if they would be willing to donate marketing materials that are dental-related, including toothbrushes, tooth-shaped stress relievers, floss, etc.
Plan a mini-dental health fair. Invite dentists (or their representatives) who accept FAMIS and FAMIS Plus to set up tables. Invite parents who you've helped with FAMIS applications, as well as the public, to come and meet the dentists, get oral health questions answered, make appointments, etc.
Partner with the schools to educate parents about Children's Dental Health Month. Take the opportunity to also let parents know about the FAMIS programs, what dental services are offered and, of course, how they can get in touch with you.
If you can't find time to undertake these activities by February, simply plan them for another month.