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Legislation Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle sponsored to promote a collaborative state effort to address oral health, especially among young children, was advanced Monday by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-3404) establishes the New Jersey Center for Oral Health at the New Jersey Dental School of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

“Research suggests that oral health mirrors our overall health,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “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. Health care costs are driving force behind so many of our economic problems, and if we can tackle one aspect of it with this effort, we’ll be better off as a state.”

The bill provides that 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;

· Serve as an information and resource center for specific oral health information and data concerning oral health and disseminate such data to interested parties;

· In consultation with the Commissioners of Education, Health and Senior Services, and Human Services, 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 and Senior Services, other State agencies, and private organizations, provide assistance to Early Head Start and Head Start programs and local school districts to develop programs in Head Start programs and elementary and secondary schools that stress good nutrition, sound oral hygiene, healthy lifestyles, and the prevention of oral disease;

· Serve as an advocate for the adoption and implementation of effective measures to improve the oral health of this state and eliminate disparities among the various racial and ethnic populations of this state concerning access to high-quality oral health care, utilization of oral health care services, and oral health status;

· 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;

· 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;

· Evaluate oral health programs in other states to assess their efficacy and potential for replication in this state, and make recommendations regarding the adoption of such programs, as appropriate; and

· Report to the Governor and Legislature annually on the work of the center and the status of oral health in the State.

“This would be an extensive effort to promote oral health throughout our state,” Vainieri Huttle said. “Oral health is a window to our overall health, so let’s work together to make this a major step toward a healthier New Jersey.”

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

Also, the center, in collaboration with appropriate departments of state government, may serve as the designated state agency for receipt of federal funds specifically designated for oral health programs.

The bill was released by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.