Dr. Stefanie Russell Awarded NYS Health Foundation Grant to Improve Oral Health Among Vulnerable Pregnant Women


The New York State Health Foundation has awarded Stefanie Russell,
DDS, MPH, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion, a one-year grant of $152,680 to address oral health deficiencies among low-income, vulnerable pregnant women. The project seeks to improve their access to dental screening and service referrals; increase knowledge among patients and providers about the importance of oral care during pregnancy; and facilitate dental care during pregnancy. It will do this by locating an on-site dental clinic at the Bellevue Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinic, which will be staffed by NYU College of Dentistry providers.

Despite detrimental oral changes accompanying pregnancy and the established causal relationship between a mother’s and her child’s oral health, roughly 60% of women do not see a dentist during pregnancy. In fact, women with the poorest oral health (minority, low-income, receiving Medicaid) are least likely to see a dentist, with approximately two-thirds not seeing a dentist during pregnancy.

The project will use evidence-based strategies adapted from the 2012 national guidelines, "Oral Health During Pregnancy: A National Consensus Statement"; namely, providing education for providers and patients and integration of oral healthcare into the prenatal care system. It will measure changes in both provider and patient behavior (over a six-month implementation period) resulting from a collaborative health promotion program between NYU College of Dentistry and the Bellevue OBGYN clinic that addresses multiple barriers to oral health in this population.

"Our plan is evidence-based and our team has the experience and motivation to successfully complete the project and to disseminate the results to those who wish to use it as a model, wherever low-income pregnant women are failing to obtain dental care," says Russell.

Dr. Russell plans to use data from this study to apply for a larger-scale grant that will enable the clinic at Bellevue to achieve long-term financial sustainability.