News Source: HNH Foundation

The NH 2013-2014 Healthy Smiles - Healthy Growth Third Grade Survey has been released and the news is good. The statewide report, funded by the HNH Foundation and Northeast Delta Dental, demonstrates progress made in obesity prevention and oral health among third graders across the state. Data show a marked improvement over the last five years since the previous survey was conducted in 2009. For the first time, the current assessment includes all ten counties in New Hampshire and community-level data for the City of Nashua.

This survey was conducted during the 2013-14 school year by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health Services, with assistance from the Nashua Division of Public Health and Community Services. The purpose of the survey was to gather representative data on oral health and height/weight status for third grade students statewide. When compared to the 2008-09 survey, there is a 30% decrease statewide in obesity prevalence, and a 31.7% decrease in untreated tooth decay statewide, along with a 32.5% decrease in children with immediate dental needs:

Overweight/Obesity

  • 3,971 third grade students in 126 schools were screened
  • 12.6% of third grade students in the state were obese
  • 15.4% were overweight
  • There was not a significant difference in prevalence of obesity by gender
  • Among counties, Coos County had the highest prevalence of obesity (21.6%).

Oral Health

  • Statewide, 35.4% of New Hampshire third grade students experienced tooth decay
  • 8.2% of students had untreated decay
  • Only 1% of third grade students required urgent treatment due to pain or swelling
  • There were no differences in the prevalence of oral health indicators by gender
  • Among counties, Coos (14%) and Strafford (14.2%) counties had the highest prevalence of untreated decay.

According to Dr. Jose Montero, Director, Division of Public Health Services, NH Department of Health & Human Services, “This survey is significant because it gathered uniform data on oral health and height/weight status of third grade students that can guide public health program planning, monitoring, evaluation, and future allocation of resources. The data provide an objective context for establishing ongoing ‘best practices’ in improving the health of our children.”

Patti Baum, Interim President of the HNH Foundation, called the survey results “encouraging. The Foundation has been funding obesity prevention efforts throughout New Hampshire, and preventive and restorative oral health programs in Coos County; we’re pleased to see impact supported by this data.” More recently, the HNH Foundation has extended funding to WIC (Women, Infants and Children) clinics in three locations across the state to not only reach young children but also pregnant women who need access to dental care. The HNH Foundation seeks to reach the state’s most vulnerable children by making grants to support obesity prevention efforts, increasing access to children’s health and dental insurance coverage, and promoting oral health prevention services. 

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health Services (DPHS), conducted data collection at public elementary schools in each county throughout New Hampshire. The Nashua Division of Public Health and Community Services coordinated access to city-level data for Nashua third grade students. The HNH Foundation and Northeast Delta Dental Foundation provided funding for data collection, while the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors contributed technical assistance for the sampling and data analyses.

Beginning in 2008, DPHS was awarded a five-year $2.2 million CDC grant to establish an Obesity Prevention Program (OPP). OPP supported Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) NH by providing assistance and resources to schools, worksites, and communities. Additionally OPP focused efforts in child care settings training over 300 child care providers to improve nutrition and physical activity in their programs. Other key partners included HEAL NH, the Foundation for Healthy Communities, the NH Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School Program, NH Regional Planning Commissions, and the NH Child Development Bureau.

For specifics about the report findings and data, please contact Nicola Whitley, Division of Public Health Services, New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services at 603-271-4822.

Click here to read the 2013-2014 Healthy Smiles-Healthy Growth Third Grade Survey.

Click here to read the press release from DHHS

NHPR: Dramatic Drop In Childhood Obesity, Tooth Decay Rates

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