Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Truth About Water Fluoridation

by Timm Dowling, Resource Development Executive

When you think of reasons kids miss school, what do you think of?

Influenza? Transportation? Substance abuse? Apathy?
What about dental health?
That’s right; tooth decay is a leading cause of absenteeism. Children with dental disease miss more school days than other children, disrupting their educational and social experiences. This leads to developmental delays, increasing the educational gap that we are fighting so hard to bridge. If children don’t show up for school regularly, they miss out on fundamental reading and math skills and the chance to build a habit of good attendance that will carry them into college and careers. Children who start behind often stay behind, continuing the cycle of poverty.
Those cheesy videos about fighting plaque weren’t just a marketing ploy. Cavities are detrimental to our overall health, especially for children. The mouth is the portal for nutrients to our bodies and without a healthy mouth; you won’t have a healthy body. Not only is it virtually impossible to eat when you have poor oral hygiene (tooth decay, gum disease, oral sores, etc.) but it distracts from all other aspects of your life. When a young child’s front teeth are damaged or missing, they often can’t form words correctly, resulting in speech issues, and tend to embrace an anti-social demeanor.
According to the Washington Dental Service Foundation, nearly 40 percent of children start kindergarten with tooth decay; almost 15 percent have rampant decay (seven or more decayed/filled teeth). Nearly six out of 10 third grade children have tooth decay in permanent teeth.
So how do we ensure most of us can have a healthy smile and optimal oral health? One proven way that has been used safely in the United States for nearly 70 years is community water fluoridation. Pierce County residents have been safely enjoying its use since the late 1950s, though not everyone is receiving it.
“Nearly 65 percent of Washington State residents improve their dental health, and overall health, by drinking fluoridated water. However, in Pierce County that number is less than half. There is obviously room for improvement. For those who want to improve the health of Pierce County residents, community water fluoridation is of proven value,” says Laura Smith, President and CEO of the Washington Dental Service Foundation.
Water Fluoridation is one of the safest and most cost efficient community health initiatives in the country. It is one of the most thoroughly studied subjects, and the substantial scientific evidence shows it is safe and effective.
In addition to the health benefits, water fluoridation is extremely cost effective. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention commissioned a study which found that every $1 invested in fluoridation saves $38 by reducing the need for dental fillings, crowns, or other treatments. This holds true for communities of over 20,000 people, but even smaller towns often find the savings a great value.
Community anxiety around water fluoridation stems from misinformation. This is similar to the issue of vaccinations. The public simply isn’t properly informed about the matter and it’s much easier to digest an emotional comment on Facebook than several pages of a scientific study. But the facts are out there and those who are properly educated on the matter understand the importance and benefit of community water fluoridation.
To connect with low cost dental resources, give our South Sound 211 office a call or find more referral information here:

Friday, May 23, 2014

2014 Community Celebration: A Recap

by Mike Leonard, Campaign Relationship Manager

More than 400 friends and supporters of United Way of Pierce County attended the 2014 Community Celebrations on May 19th in beautiful downtown Tacoma. The Tacoma Convention Center was the perfect venue for this annual event, radiating the reception area with the glowing afternoon sun.

Outgoing Campaign Chair, Deb Young, HR Director from the City of Lakewood, welcomed guests and thanked the sponsors for making the evening possible.  With the financial support of The Boeing Company, Union Bank and Staging Techniques, 100 percent of the events costs were covered.

Young introduced new United Way of Pierce County President/CEO, Dona Ponepinto, who shared her story about United Way being deeply rooted in her family, from her dad’s annual pledge to her mom’s volunteer work, and finally her own 27 year career with United Way. Ponepinto shared her passion for United Way, and highlights of the United Way strategic plan. She thanked the corporate partners and employee donors, and closed with the quote, “Living United, we don’t do any of the work alone.”

Wayne Larkin, President and CEO of True Blue, spoke on behalf of 2013 Campaign Chair, Steve Cooper. Larkin spoke of the success of several corporate campaigns in 2013, and highlighted some of the campaign’s successes.  He explained how dollars raised through the company campaign stabilize families in Pierce County by connecting those in need with vital resources, helping families get out of crisis situations. Some of the successful campaigns that were highlighted include Korum Automotive Group, Coordinated Care, GEO Engineers, Nordstrom, Franciscan Health Care and TrueBlue. Larkin also had the pleasure of recognizing the City of Tacoma as the 2013 Campaign of the Year.

Dianna Kielian, Senior VP of Mission for Franciscan Health System, and incoming campaign chair for UWPC told a touching story about her childhood and how United Way helped her family during a time of crisis. “Not enough” her Dad would say as they drove by the Detroit Buick plant United Way Thermometer. You see, her dad had recently been laid off from the Buick Company, but was still committed to making his annual donation to United Way. He asked each of his children to dig through their piggy banks several times to help with the family’s United Way pledge knowing that United Way was there to support the family during that difficult 5 month period of unemployment. The gift of giving continues with Dianna to this day.

New United Way Board Chair Jamey McCormick spoke from the heart about how life has changed since the birth of his second daughter just 4 months ago. He spoke about starting points, and how all children starting at the same point in life, and how they grow is determined by family support. McCormick spoke about the importance of talking to children. He said that the success of his daughter starts at day one, and that every time he talks to her, he is helping her develop. He spoke of United Way’s efforts to focus on early learning, early grade excellence and strengthening families. McCormick also spoke about the need to break down barriers that families and children face every day in our community, and empower them to succeed.

Dona Ponepinto closed the celebration and spoke of how our partnerships with First 5 Fundamentals, Tacoma Children’s Museum, Mary Bridge, Lindquist Dental and Pierce County Libraries is shaping the way we care for and prepare our youngest citizens for school and life. Ponepinto said the she believes that investing in children will change their story to one of accomplishments and not challenges. She spoke of the barriers that stand in the way of families and children, and how we can work together as a community to find solutions to those barriers; “We can create lasting change by removing barriers so that families can be empowered to make lasting change.” Ponepinto closed with quote from one of her favorite children’s books, Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends.  “Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me. Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

Sunday, May 11, 2014

J.R.R. Tolkien Taught Me About Motherhood

by Patricia Hart, Campaign Account Manager

I didn’t read to my sons in order to increase their reading scores, academic advancement or economic success. I read to open vistas of imagination and to keep, even briefly, cares at bay. Crack open a book and anything can happen.

As a single mother with three very active little boys, a quiet hour every evening— all wrangling suspended, bathed, teeth brushed, Band-Aids refreshed— restored the sometimes fraying bonds between brothers… and me. During that brief daily interlude it was just us—off on a literary adventure together.

I keenly remember reading, looking down at the whorls and cowlicks of their damp hair and marveling at their lengthening limbs. Before long they were old enough to comprehend the complexity of a book like the Fellowship of the Ring; they seemed so big, but not so big that we weren’t all stunned and in tears when Gandalf fell to the Balrog on the bridge of Moria. How could the band survive without Gandalf’s wisdom? How could the boys manage without me? What was Tolkien thinking?!

We read more than a hundred books together. The boys enlisted the aid of delighted school librarians in ferreting out Newberry winners, and we pored over Robinson Crusoe’s diaries. Even though we rationed every ounce that went into our packs when we hiked, the heft of the current book was exempt. The power of the narrative carried its own weight. During each reading with my boys, I never attempted to define or question or teach or moralize, even though I was tempted at times. It may have been a simpler time, although motherhood is always fraught with anxieties and concerns. I didn’t feel the same pressure to produce results in such a high-stakes testing environment. 

We somehow successfully managed the chasm of adolescence, with or without Gandalf. As a single mother, I had doubts and fears, yet while reading to my boys those melted away; I knew that our time together lost in the magical world of Tolkien was what they needed to grow into well-rounded individuals. United Way of Pierce County is working to bring that kind of growth to all children in our community, through our Launch into Literacy program and our strong focus on early childhood development and early grade excellence. You have the chance to enhance a child’s life through books and play by volunteering – reading, tutoring, you name it.

Learn more here: