BENNINGTON — It’s been five years since the publication of Healthy Vermonters 2020 was released.
Since then, residents have made strides in a variety of areas of becoming healthier, but most importantly, in the areas of oral health and tobacco use. These trends and more were reflected in the midterm report released by the Vermont Department of Health on March 3.
These improvements keep Vermont running as one of the healthiest states in the nation. It also decreases the chance of getting a chronic disease that could lead to death.
“There’s a whole range of intervention that we support and that we try to help communities do around physical activity and nutrition and tobacco,” said Julie Arel director of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention division of the Vermont Department of Health. “There are policy changes that don’t cost money to the town that can help to promote improvements in those behaviors that lead to chronic diseases.”
Community water fluoridation is one of those improvements. Across Vermont, 56 percent of water systems are fluoridated — no communities in Bennington County fluoridate. Arel said that is one of the most cost effective strategies to improve oral health and is one of the “top 10 public health biggest wins in the past century.”
Midterm data for oral health in Bennington County is not available, however, Arel said it used to mirror the state’s rates. Now, the state is improving while adults in Bennington County continue to get extractions due to rotting teeth.
Arel said this has to do with, in addition to water fluoridation, the lack of access to medicaid or the fact that some dentists don’t accept the health insurance.
By 2016, the amount of children, statewide, in grades kindergarten through sixth using the dental system each year increased by 5 percent — 72 percent to 77 percent — the 2020 target sits at 80 percent. The same goes for children in grades seven through 12 — with an ultimate goal of 65 percent, the amount of students practicing proper oral health techniques has increased 3 percent, according to the Midway to 2020 Report Card.
The Bennington Oral Health Coalition works to incorporate oral health education in local classrooms after the county was listed as having the worst oral health in the state. Sixteen classrooms currently participate in a daily tooth brushing program due to the coalition’s efforts and more than 50 presentations have been delivered in schools during the past six months alone, according to the coalition’s March newsletter.
The group is also working with the Vermont State Dental Society and the Vermont Department of Health to promote community water fluoridation.
• Original article online at http://www.benningtonbanner.com/stories/bennington-still-has-work-to-do,502675