Bringing Together Early Learning and Early Health


By Marlaina Simmons
Regional Coordinator
Olympic-Kitsap Peninsulas Early Learning Coalition

Early learning regional coalitions like ours have worked hard to build relationships with the families they serve. And as trusted messengers, we can deliver information that goes beyond the scope of traditional early learning — to support the well-being of children and families. That’s why we’re excited to partner with the Washington Dental Service Foundation and the Access to Baby and Child Dentistry (ABCD) program to improve children’s oral health in the communities within our region.
In 2014 and 2015, the Olympic-Kitsap Peninsulas Early Learning Coalition will be incorporating activities, resources and information around the importance of oral health into play and learn groups, library story time sessions, parenting education classes and home visiting services. Washington Dental Service Foundation will also be offering Cavity Free Kids training to licensed child care providers and Head Start/Early Head Start/ECEAP providers in our region. Our goal is to increase parents’ knowledge of the message “First tooth, first birthday, first dental visit,” connect families to their local ABCD coordinators and, ultimately, increase the number of families accessing dental care.

The Washington Dental Service Foundation sought out partnerships with the regional early learning coalitions because of their broad-based membership of diverse community partners and organizations that have come together to build an integrated early learning system to support young children and families across the state. The coalitions are uniquely positioned to incorporate oral health into a variety of settings. Coalition partners can help connect the at risk children they serve to the ABCD program.

Coalition and ABCD partnerships were first piloted with the First 5 Fundamentals coalition in Pierce County in 2012 and 2013. Our region was approached with the proposal after the Washington Dental Service Foundation identified through the 2010 Washington State Smile Survey that by kindergarten, over 50 percent of children in Clallam, Jefferson and Mason counties have experienced tooth decay. It was also identified through the Health Care Authority Medicaid Utilization data that even though Medicaid includes comprehensive dental care for kids, less than 42 percent of children ages birth to 5 in those counties are accessing these services.
To find out more about this partnership, contact Marlaina Simmons at, or Stacy Torrance at