The effectiveness of Dental Health Support Workers at linking families with primary care dental practices: a population-wide data linkage cohort study

Hodgins, F., Sherriff, A. , Gnich, W., Ross, A. J. and Macpherson, L. M.D. (2018) The effectiveness of Dental Health Support Workers at linking families with primary care dental practices: a population-wide data linkage cohort study. BMC Oral Health, 18, 191. (doi: 10.1186/s12903-018-0650-z) (PMID:30463549) (PMCID:PMC6249895)

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Background: Link workers (lay health workers, health support workers) based in the community provide additional support to individuals and families to facilitate engagement with primary care and other services and resources. This additional support aims to tackle the wider socio-economic determinants of health that lead to inequalities. To date, there is no clear evidence of the effectiveness of these programmes. This study evaluates the effectiveness of Dental Health Support Workers (DHSW) at linking targeted families with young children to primary care dental practices. The DHSW role is one component of Childsmile, the national oral health improvement programme in Scotland. Methods: A quasi-experimental approach captured the natural variation in the rollout of the DHSW intervention across Scotland in a cohort of children born between 2010 and 2013. Survival analysis explored “time to attendance” at primary care dental practice. Cox’s regression models compared attendance rates and time until first attendance between those families who received support from the DHSW and those who did not. Results: The cohort consisted of 35236 children. Thirty-three percent of the cohort (n = 11495) were considered to require additional support from a DHSW. Of these, 44% (5087) received that support. These families were more likely to attend a dental practice (Hazard Ratio [95% Confidence Interval] =1.87 [1.8 to 1.9]) and, on average, did so 9 months earlier (median time until first attendance: 8.8 months versus 17.8 months), compared to families not receiving additional support. Conclusions: Link workers (DHSW) within the Childsmile programme are effective at linking targeted children to primary care dental services and, most notably, at a younger age for prevention. This is the first study of its kind to evaluate the effectiveness of link-worker programmes using a robust quasi-experimental design on three, population-wide, linked datasets. These results will inform future health programmes which aim to improve health and reduce inequalities by reaching and supporting families from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gnich, Dr Wendy and Sherriff, Professor Andrea and Macpherson, Professor Lorna and HODGINS, Faith and Ross, Dr Alastair
Authors: Hodgins, F., Sherriff, A., Gnich, W., Ross, A. J., and Macpherson, L. M.D.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Medicine, Dentistry & Nursing > Dental School
Journal Name:BMC Oral Health
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN (Online):1472-6831
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 The Authors
First Published:First published in BMC Oral Health 18: 191
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
398967Evaluation of Scotland Child Oral Health ProgrammeLorna MacphersonScottish Executive Health Department (SE-HEALTH)N/ASM - DENTAL SCHOOL