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Brevard Public Schools Head Start Wins Prestigious Edward Zigler Innovation Award for Onsite Oral Health Initiative

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA -- Brevard Public Schools (BPS) Head Start, in partnership with the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), is proud to announce its recognition as the national recipient of the Edward Zigler Innovation Award. This esteemed accolade celebrates Head Start programs that have shown exceptional innovation and impact through community partnerships, particularly in children's oral health.
The BPS Head Start program proudly serves three and four-year-old students and families in 12 BPS elementary schools. The award underscores the success of the Onsite Oral Health Initiative, a collaborative effort aimed at providing comprehensive oral health services to Head Start children and families throughout Brevard County, with Brevard Public Schools being the first school district to ever be recognized with this award. Among the initiative's key highlights is providing preventative oral care, including health screenings, tele-dentistry exams directly on school campuses, and fluoride treatments, eliminating barriers such as transportation and time constraints for families.
Throughout the 2023-24 school year, 496 BPS Head Start children have benefited from onsite preventative oral health care. Notably, this initiative marks the first oral health encounter for many of these children, thereby laying a crucial foundation for lifelong oral care.
Wendy Smith, BPS Director of Elementary Programs, Terri Barlow, Assistant Director of BPS Head Start, and Amanda Willis, Department of Health (DOH) Registered Dental Hygienist, accepted the national award on behalf of the dedicated team members who have supported the Onsite Oral Health Initiative. The ceremony took place on April 16 in Portland, Oregon, with heartfelt appreciation extended to BPS and DOH leadership for their unwavering support.
Reflecting on the journey that led to this groundbreaking initiative, Director Smith shared, "When I assumed the role of Director for BPS Head Start in 2019, I envisioned our Head Start program as a beacon of innovation and support for our students and families. The need for improved oral health services became evident, driving us to forge stronger partnerships and explore innovative solutions."
The Onsite Oral Health Initiative addresses a critical gap identified in program data, with a remarkable increase in the percentage of children receiving annual dental exams, from 53% to an impressive 98%. This achievement underscores the transformative impact of collaborative efforts in enhancing the well-being of children and families.
In partnership with the FDOH, BPS Head Start implemented a traveling oral health program, through collaboration with a Registered Dental Hygienist to conduct onsite screenings at each BPS Head Start location. The initiative prioritizes accessibility and comfort, with children receiving care in a child-friendly environment and familiar surroundings.
"We are immensely grateful to receive the Edward Zigler Innovation Award, but the true reward lies in the positive impact we've made on the lives of our students and families," remarked Smith. "Through collective action and dedication, we have empowered children with essential oral health resources and laid the groundwork for a healthier future."
The success of the Onsite Oral Health Initiative exemplifies the power of collaboration and innovation in advancing the mission of BPS Head Start to promote school readiness and holistic development. As Brevard Public Schools Head Start continues its commitment to excellence, the program remains steadfast in its dedication to providing children and families with a solid foundation for success.
Posted June 4, 2024