Raleigh’s News & Observer re-ran a story  over the weekend that first appeared in the Wilson Times  last week. It told the story of a three-year $300,000 grant that the state Health and Wellness Trust Fund is providing to Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe Counties to hire a couple of dental hygienists to help low-income residents.
While heartening in a sense (the help is certainly welcome and better than nothing) it’s also pretty damned sad.
After all, we’re talking about three relatively populous counties in a large and rapidly growing state in the richest country in the world. Are things really so desperate when it comes to access to basic healthcare that it’s news in the state’s newspaper of record that two dental hygienists have been hired?!
To quote the article:
‘It is unfortunate that many North Carolina citizens do not receive basic dental care which is so critical for overall good health,’ said Vandana Shah, the trust fund’s executive director. ‘We hope that these grant funds will provide more North Carolina citizens with access to high quality, accessible oral health care.’
In 2006, about 32 percent of N.C. adults reported that they did not see a dentist within a year. The percentages were higher among Native Americans (39 percent), African-Americans (42 percent) and Hispanics (56 percent).
Many residents of rural areas have limited or no access to dental care. Based on 2004 data, 60 N.C. counties, including Wilson, were considered dental health shortage areas.
Carolina Family Health Centers serves areas where 70 percent of the population is uninsured.”
Keep this story in mind the next time someone starts yammering to you about how most of the people without health insurance are just young healthy people who’ve chosen to do without.