Link to ARC home page.

ARC, West Virginia Governor Manchin, and Benedum Foundation Announce Oral Health Initiative

November 2008


CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA, November 20, 2008—West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin III and Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Federal Co-Chair Anne B. Pope announced today a major initiative on school-community partnerships to promote children's oral health in West Virginia. ARC and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation have collaborated to fund a $500,000 grant for the program, which will help establish school-based dental clinics and will be managed by the Robert C. Byrd Center for Rural Health at Marshall University.

The clinics will be targeted at school-age youth without access to dental care in the economically distressed, at-risk, and transitional counties of West Virginia. One of the clinics' priorities will be to provide sealants to prevent cavities.

A team from Marshall University will manage the grant activities, which include the development of a grant proposal application and selection process for funding school-based/linked dental services in West Virginia communities.

Schools, health departments, and rural health centers will be asked to submit proposals defining their plan and the funding needed to implement a program to expand youth access to oral health care.

ARC funds will be used to fund the dental equipment requests, and Benedum Foundation funds will be used for planning and technical assistance.

Approximately 7,500 students will be provided with sealants, exams, and/or restorative care each year as a result of the program.

Manchin welcomed the initiative: "This project is another example of what can happen when people come together to make positive changes for West Virginia. ARC and the Benedum Foundation are true partners, dedicated to improving the State of West Virginia, and I am grateful for their commitment. Quality health care is essential to our citizens' ability to enjoy a good quality of life and is an area that we will continue to work hard to improve."

Pope said, "Nothing could be more important to the future of Appalachia than our children, and they deserve the best health care we can give them. These clinics will help strengthen a fundamental building block for children's health. Good oral health promotes human development, and human development promotes economic development. Healthy workers start with healthy kids, and this program will help our kids to get on the right track."

Beverly Robinson, vice president of the Benedum Foundation, stated that the initiative was "greatly needed to improve West Virginia's future" and would "remove needless pain and suffering and enhance the potential for an educated and healthy workforce. Our board of trustees thanks Governor Manchin and Anne Pope, ARC federal co-chair, for working once again with the Benedum Foundation."

West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd said, "Providing accessible dental care to West Virginia's school-age children is a vital component in ensuring their overall health and preventing painful dental problems that would undoubtedly distract students from their studies. The clinics will also help instill good dental habits in our state's children and help pave the way for a healthy and productive West Virginia."

Senator Jay Rockefeller said, "Children deserve to start out life being healthy, and that includes seeing a dentist for routine cleanings to prevent cavities. Healthy kids grow into strong adults and this program is incredibly important to making that happen."

In support of the initiative, Congressman Nick Rahall said, "This program is packed with the kind of preventative measures we need to improve the health of our state. Dental disease is the single most prevalent chronic childhood disease, but it is also almost 100 percent preventable. We need more public-private collaborations of this kind to help bring easily accessible, preventative health care straight to the children who need it most."

Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito noted that "creative solutions like this oral health initiative are incredibly important and build on the success of our school-based health centers. By providing access to quality dental care for more than 7,000 West Virginia children, this new partnership is great news, and I'm excited to see its impact here in West Virginia."

Congressman Alan Mollohan also commented on the program's value, stating that "when it comes to dental health, an ounce of prevention is indeed worth a pound of cure. By emphasizing preventative dental care, the success of this program will be seen not only in the smiles of our children today but also in lower medical costs tomorrow."

A dental advisory committee comprising representatives from ARC, the Benedum Foundation, Marshall University, and the State of West Virginia will review proposals and select 15–20 projects to be funded by the grant.