Monday, Oct. 30

Early dental care to improve quality of life for Logan County residents  Send a link to a friend

New Healthy Communities Partnership mobile health unit brings H.O.P.E.

[OCT. 30, 2006]  It was a brave crowd that gathered behind Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital last Friday afternoon. In the damp chill of late afternoon, a large group, mostly composed of public officials, health care professionals and financial sponsors, assembled to celebrate the unveiling of the new H.O.P.E. Mobile.

H.O.P.E. stands for "Healthcare, Oral health, Prevention and Education."

The first mobile health care van began rolling the roads of Logan County in 1998, bringing basic health care services to qualifying people who lack a primary care physician, insurance or are unable to travel. Fundraising for a replacement van began two years ago as repairs started to get costly.

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This last spring Healthy Communities Partnership director Kristi Lessen said that in studying the health care needs of the Logan County population, oral health stood out as the current greatest need.

During her research to address that need, Lessen learned that the mobile unit could be designed to include dental services to qualifying Logan County youth.

As many as 800 children in Logan County currently are in need of preventive oral health services but go without due to lack of access to dental providers. Left untreated, oral health diseases can lead to illness throughout the rest of the body. Children with oral health problems miss 12 times as many days of school as children with good oral health.

According to the Abraham Lincoln Healthcare Foundation, the new H.O.P.E. Mobile improves access to care for people of all ages from throughout Logan County.

Contributions for the $340,000 mobile unit came from a variety of sources. Major contributors were the Illinois Children's Healthcare Foundation, the Eaton Charitable Foundation, SIU School of Medicine, the Abraham Lincoln Healthcare Foundation, Logan County and the estate of Miss Hilda Humphreys of Clinton.

Speakers, some with chattering teeth and shivering, opted to keep their comments short. Most powerful in her words was the person most responsible in expanding the mobile van to include dental services: Kristi Lessen.

Lessen emphasized the connection between the hope that the new service brings to Logan County residents and her deeper understanding of hope as provided by family and friends while getting through a difficult time the last couple of months.

[Lessen was in an accident on Labor Day weekend in which she lost her husband and she sustained injuries from which she has not yet fully recovered.]

She gave a hearty thank-you to each of the major contributors.

Below is a summary of comments made by a few of the speakers:

  • Julie Janssen, acting chief, Division of Oral Health, Illinois Department of Public Health

Janssen expressed appreciation at how all the community here pulls together and is glad to be a part of providing continuing oral health care to youth of Logan County.

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  • Dr. Julio Morales, D.D.S.

Dr. Morales (a guy from the tropics with the chills) has volunteered to work one Friday per month.

He said that a CDC study showed that 2- to 11-year-olds have 41 percent tooth decay in baby teeth. By age 19 that figure has increased to 90 percent decay in permanent teeth. "There is a need for prevention," he said.

He said that he is pleased to be part of this program, lucky to be part of the Logan County community and appreciates all the efforts of Logan County health participants.

  • Mary Southerlan, 23 years as a dental hygienist, now serving on the H.O.P.E. Mobile

Southerlan said that it's her first experience in public health. She's very excited about going on this adventure and hopes to increase awareness in the community about the importance of a healthy mouth.

  • Scott Goodman, Eaton (Cutler-Hammer) Corp.

Goodman, speaking on behalf of Eaton Corp, said that the company is proud to be a part of Logan County for 50 years and glad to give back to the community.

The mobile unit will continue to be staffed by registered nurses and a family nurse practitioner. They will continue to offer a wide variety of medical services, such as blood sugar, tuberculosis, blood level and allergy tests; blood pressure checks; immunizations and vaccines; treatment of respiratory infections and chronic conditions; wound care; medication management; school sport physicals; and more.

Services from the mobile unit are offered on a qualifying basis for a minimal fee or free.

The H.O.P.E. Mobile travels to Hartsburg, Atlanta, New Holland, Elkhart, Mount Pulaski, Chestnut Middletown, Emden and Lincoln. On Nov. 17 the van will be in Latham Park in Lincoln for its first dental day.

The new services will include dental exams, cleaning, sealants and digital X-rays for the 17-and-under age group.

You can contact the Logan County Health Department to schedule appointments and get more information on dental or any of the other services that the agency provides. The LCHD is located at 109 Third St. in Lincoln. Call 217-735-2317 for more information.

[Jan Youngquist]


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