Find us on Facebook  Follow us on Twitter  Google Translate
« Back to news list
Taking a Bite out of Tooth Decay Among Kids, New Grants Will Bring Vital Dental Services and Education Services to Underserved Children

News Image
View more pictures

(Newark, NJ, February 12, 2019) – With one in four children from low-income families suffering from untreated tooth decay -- twice the rate of children from higher-income households -- Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ) is teaming up with Gateway Community Action to bring brighter smiles to those children.

A shortage of dentists and family financial constraints – a parent unable to take time from work or pay for their child’s dental care – are among the chief obstacles preventing children in lower-income families from getting the dental care they need.  When ignored, common dental problems in children can have costly and substantial long-term consequences. Untreated dental disease impairs a child’s ability to eat, sleep, and function well at home and at school and can also adversely impact a child’s self-esteem and social development.

  Nearly half of the children Gateway treats have serious dental issues caused in part by the lack of regular visits with a dentist, which in turn, is the result of a decided lack of transportation to get to dental offices from remote areas of the rural counties. Additionally, tooth decay caused by poor or improper diet and a need to educate children and their parents on proper hygiene, most notably brushing and flossing, are problems Gateway addresses regularly.

Horizon BCBSNJ created the Kids Oral Health Program (KOHP) in 2016 to help address these obstacles and provided $500,000 in grants to non-profit organizations that brought dental care and education programs to New Jersey communities shown to have the greatest need.

Included as one of the fortunate grantees in this as well as the first phase the KOHP is Gateway Community Action Partnership, the designated CAP agency for Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties.  Gateway’s Wellness on Wheels (WOW) Mobile will be funded for dental and health services outreach.

According to results from the KOHP’s first two years, 15,000 kids in 11 counties participated in school and community-based programs that taught them and their families how to take care of their teeth and gums.  The grants also funded direct dental care including:

  • Applied sealants that protect teeth from decay to more than 3,000 children
  • Filled cavities for 828 patients
  • Completed fluoride treatments, which have been proven to prevent tooth decay in children, for 3700 children.

”Where children live should never prevent them from getting the care they need, whether that care is delivered by a pediatrician, dentist or another health professional,”said Joseph Albano, Vice President of Horizon BCBSNJ’s Commercial and Specialty Markets, which includes the company’s dental business of more than one million members. “Working with our community partners, we have made remarkable progress in helping children from low income families see a dentist, and this new investment will lead to healthier kids and healthier smiles across New Jersey. Prevention and wellness are at the center of Horizon’s efforts to improve the quality and overall cost of care for our members and all of New Jersey.”

To build on and accelerate this progress, Horizon BCBSNJ is doubling its commitment with a new round of two-year grants totaling $500,000. The grants, made through the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, to eight organizations that will serve approximately 13,500 children.

The grantees, and the high-need counties they serve, include:

  • Gracious Smiles                                              Camden County
  • KinderSmile Foundation                                 Essex, Morris and Passaic
  • Metropolitan Family Health Network, Inc.         Hudson
  • NJ Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics   Essex, Hudson, Mercer and Passaic
  • Newark Community Health Centers                  Essex
  • Rutgers School of Dental Medicine                  Essex
  • Gateway Community Action Partnership          Cumberland and Salem
  • Zufall Health Center                                         Morris and Warren

  Gateway’s Wellness on Wheels (WOW) mobile is a fully-equipped, state-of-the-art mobile health and dental center that is the result of a collaborative partnership of Gateway Community Action Partnership, CompleteCare Health Network and Inspira Health Network. The unit serves individuals and families of all ages, enabling them to access care and referral information for additional dental or medical services, as needed, in one location that is convenient to those most in need of services.

  The vehicle travels to remote locations for care, as well as participates in community health fairs and events.

  Inspira and CompleteCare have worked since their inception to deliver quality, affordable health care and to break down barriers preventing the access to that care. In addition to locations with extended hours across the Southern Jersey region and innovative approaches to quality care, Inspira and Complete Care are models for health care excellence. The WOW mobile is the latest example of that philosophy and approach.

  The vehicle will be owned by Gateway and licensed by CompleteCare with Inspira assisting with scheduling and facilitating essential community outreach.

  “I am honored that Gateway’s WOW Mobile is part of the Horizon Foundation’s focus. The development of our WOW Mobile was a collaborative labor of love. We are excited and we are blessed to have a wonderful organization recognize and support that collective effort,” Gateway President/CEO and founder Albert B. Kelly, CCAP, said.

  “Horizon’s support of the WOW Mobile shows not only their generous support, but their understanding of community-based solutions to community-based issues. Helping us provide quality medical and dental services to residents in our rural area of the state by funding mobile outreach conveys how clearly they get what works best for our children and families. For that, we are so very grateful.”

For additional WOW Mobile information:

The next phase of KOHP grants will focus on four areas to address the prevalence of preventable and treatable conditions of the teeth and gums of children up to age 18:

Education and awareness, including school and community-based awareness programs and parental engagement;

Prevention, including screenings, cleanings, sealants and the establishment of pediatric dental homes;

Treatment, including critical oral health treatments, such as examination, emergency care and other urgent interventions;

Professional Development, including improved collaboration among dentists and pediatricians to integrate care for children.

“Kids need the best start possible to help maintain good overall health over a lifetime, and the Kids’ Oral Health program is focused on making that possible,” said Jonathan Pearson, Executive Director of The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey.   “We are asking grantees to dedicate their efforts on prevention and treatment so New Jersey can win the battle against the most common and chronic childhood disease -- tooth decay.”

About Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, the state's oldest and largest health insurer is a tax-paying, not-for-profit health service corporation, providing a wide array of medical, dental, vision and prescription insurance products and services. Horizon BCBSNJ is leading the transformation of health care in New Jersey by working with doctors and hospitals to deliver innovative, patient-centered programs that reward the quality, not quantity, of care patients receive. Learn more at Horizon BCBSNJ is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association serving more than 3.8 million members.

About The Horizon Foundation For New Jersey:

The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey is committed to working alongside those who can help us improve our neighbors’ health, inform their health decisions and inspire them to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. The Foundation’s funding pillars are Caring, Connecting and Creating. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is the sole member of The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, both of which are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information please visit