Assembly Panel Approves Johnson & Greenwald Bill to Promote & Improve Oral Health throughout New Jersey

Legislation Assemblyman Gordon Johnson and Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald sponsored to promote and improve oral health in New Jersey, especially among young children, was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

The bill (A-3314) would establish the New Jersey Center for Oral Health at the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine in order to provide for a collaborative state effort to address oral health. The Dean of the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, or the dean’s designee, would serve as the director of the center.

“Poor oral health can lead to so many other health problems, so it’s important that we as a state join in a collaborative effort to combat this problem,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “Hopefully these efforts will lead to better oral hygiene at a young age, putting our residents on a path to a lifetime of better overall health.”

“Research suggests that oral health mirrors our overall health,” said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). “Not only will this bill help improve public health throughout New Jersey, but it will also help address health care costs, which is one of many pressing economic issues facing our state.”

Under the bill, the center would develop and facilitate model public and private partnerships for oral health awareness campaigns to improve the access, acceptability and use of oral health services in this state. It would serve as an information and resource center for specific oral health information and data concerning oral health and disseminate the data to interested parties.

In consultation with the Commissioners of Education, Health, and Human Services, the center would review, recommend, and develop appropriate oral health education materials and disseminate the materials to local school districts throughout the state. In collaboration with the commissioners of Education and Health, other state agencies, and private organizations, the center would assist in developing programs in Head Start and elementary and secondary schools that stress good nutrition, sound oral hygiene, healthy lifestyles, and the prevention of oral disease.

The center would serve as an advocate for the adoption and implementation of effective measures to improve oral health in New Jersey and eliminate disparities among the various racial and ethnic populations of the state concerning access to high-quality oral health care, utilization of oral health care services and oral health status.

The center would develop recommendations for the most effective means of providing outreach to communities throughout the state to ensure their maximum participation in publicly-funded oral health programs.

The center would also seek to establish a statewide alliance with community-based agencies and organizations, health care facilities, oral health care provider organizations and dental insurance companies to promote the objectives of the center.

The center would evaluate oral health programs in other states to assess their efficacy and potential for replication in New Jersey and make recommendations regarding the adoption of such programs, as appropriate.

The center may apply for and accept any grant of money from the federal government, private foundations, or other sources, which may be available for programs related to oral health.

The center would be required to report annually to the governor and the legislature on its work and the status of oral health in New Jersey.

The measure was approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.