Health Policy

McKernan participates in oral health and childhood obesity prevention national conference

Five children walk down a hallway holding hands and smiling.

Dr. Susan McKernan, researcher in the Health Policy Research Program at the University of Iowa Public Policy Center and assistant professor in the UI Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry in the College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics, recently participated in the Healthy Futures: Engaging the Oral Health Community in Childhood Obesity Prevention National Conference. The conference was by invitation only and took place Nov. 3-4 in Washington, D.C.

The conference served as an important step in involving the oral health community in contributing to the prevention of childhood obesity. The increasing numbers of children who are obese has led federal policymakers to rank childhood obesity as a critical health threat. Multiple approaches are necessary to address the challenge of childhood obesity, and health professionals of all types have roles to play. The role of oral health professionals is an important one because of the relationship between oral health and overall health.

McKernan is currently involved in the Public Policy Center’s evaluation of Iowa’s Medicaid expansion, where she focuses on health care workforce adequacy and utilization of preventive health services. She is also the principal investigator on a recently funded CDC project to look at public health activities targeting common risk factors for chronic diseases, including dental disease.

“Poor dietary habits contribute to both obesity and tooth decay,” McKernan said. “Interventions during childhood to improve nutrition, such as reducing soda consumption, can help prevent both diseases. Early interventions can improve health over the entire lifespan.”

The National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center (OHRC), the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA), and the Santa Fe Group organized the collaborative effort, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Learn more about McKernan and her resesarch here