NYU Dentistry's Shulamite Huang Awarded NIDCR Grant to Study the Economics of School-Based Dental Programs


Health economist Shulamite Huang, PhD, a research instructor in the Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion at NYU Dentistry, has received a grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) to study the cost-effectiveness of school-based cavity prevention programs. The award (K25DE028584), which began September 1, provides $842,400 over five years.

School-based programs to prevent cavities—the world's most prevalent childhood disease—have emerged as an important way to improve children’s access to dental services. Bringing care to children at their schools rather than having them come to a dentist's office lowers the barriers to treatment, which can include cost, fear of dentists, and parents having to take time off work for appointments. In addition, in underserved areas, school-based programs are often the sole source of dental care for children.

While research has demonstrated the importance of school-based cavity prevention programs, it has also shown significant variation between programs, and not enough is known about their cost-effectiveness. Huang’s research will evaluate how variation in the design of school-based programs and prior use of dental care impacts oral health outcomes, use and spending within Medicaid, and the overall cost-effectiveness and budget impact of school-based programs. She will use oral health outcomes data from a clinical trial—led by NYU Dentistry’s Richard Niederman, DMD—of two multi-site school-based cavity prevention programs, as well as New York Medicaid claims data.

"This research is important for identifying cost-effective school-based cavity prevention program designs in real world settings. Our findings can inform public health officials, policymakers, and other stakeholders as to what type of programs to implement, which ultimately will reduce health disparities and improve health care delivery and quality," said Huang.

Huang's NICDR grant is a K25 Mentored Quantitative Research Development Award, designed to foster health research by junior faculty with backgrounds outside of biology or medicine. This research will launch Huang's career in oral health services research, integrating her experience in health economics and policy evaluation with additional training in clinical research methods and evaluation of clinical interventions. She will be mentored by Niederman and NYU Langone Health’s Heather Gold, PhD, an expert in economic evaluations of clinical and behavioral interventions.