Almanac

News - April 28, 2010

New health education, dental clinic opens in East Palo Alto

This information was submitted by Kathleen Alexander, director of communications for the Ravenswood Family Health Center, which serves residents in East Palo Alto, the Belle Haven area of Menlo Park, and east Redwood City.

Ravenswood Family Health Center is hosting a dual celebration April 29 with the opening of its Center for Health Promotion and its Ravenswood Family Dentistry clinic.

The two facilities are conjoined, sharing a common reception area that features a video display for educational videos and five smaller displays for kid video games, a diversion that works when kids feel anxious about going to the dentist.

The idea for the health education center came from Ravenswood board member Gordon Russell of Portola Valley. Hearing that the education and insurance enrollment staff were packed into a "warren " of little cubicles, he proposed building a new site. Within a few months, the idea was on the drawing board, and Mr. Russell himself, who has a long history of support for nonprofit projects, committed a major gift to underwrite the lion's share for internal construction of the building.

With 4,000 square feet, the center has room for the entire health education team, plus a classroom and space for retinopathy screening. Another section accommodates insurance enrollment specialists who meet with families to determine their eligibility for public health coverage.

As the site was being constructed, Sharon Keating Beauregard, director of community partnerships, said Stanford Hospital & Clinics wanted to put in a health library extension at the center, making it the fifth in its network of health libraries. The library is open to residents of the community. With the assistance of a bilingual librarian, people will have access to one of the most extensive online bilingual health information systems in the region.

To the right of the center is the Ravenswood Family Dentistry clinic, a full-service, safety-net dental clinic, with 10 dental chairs, a pediatric unit, a surgery unit, and advanced digital dental technology.

Access to dental care has been a major concern. "Our patients have significant dental health problems," says CEO Luisa Buada. "The extent of the problem was confirmed when our staff screened Ravenswood City School District kindergarteners and second-graders several years ago and found that 32 percent had visible dental caries."

An estimated 40 percent of adults need immediate access to oral health services, particularly those suffering from a chronic disease such as diabetes.

The biggest problem has always been a lack of dentists in the Ravenswood Family Health Center's primary service area — East Palo Alto, Belle Haven in Menlo Park and east Redwood City.

According to the U.S. Health & Human Services Administration criteria, RFHC serves a "Dental Professional Shortage Area," which means the ratio of low-income population to dentists has to be greater than 3,000 to 1. In RFHC's service area, the ratio is actually a stunning 81,521:1.

Necessity, in this case, became the mother of intention. CEO Luisa Buada went to David and Lucile Packard Foundation with a proposal to build a dental clinic. The Foundation agreed and with a grant of $1.5 million, the plans were drawn up. With additional funding from Bothin Foundation, Baxter International, California Dental Association and others, RFHC has been able to build a first class dental clinic that rivals the best in the county.

RFHC's Dental Director Jack Luomanen, who has set up many community dentistry clinics over the past 30 years, is incorporating best practices for early detection and prevention into the dental program including a method designed at UCSF to detect bacterial condition in the month in young children under the age of 3, treat it, and thereby reduce and prevent future caries.

Given limited staffing, Ravenswood will only be able to accept its registered medical patients. It expects to see 1,800 patients in 4,500 visits, expanding to 3,000 patients in 8,500 visits in year two. At full capacity, the 10-operatory clinic will be able to see 6,000 to 8,000 unique patients annually.

INFORMATION

Ravenswood Family Health Center invites the public to celebrate the grand opening of its new facilities on Thursday, April 29, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 1807 Bay Road in East Palo Alto. For directions, go to www.ravenswoodfhc.org.

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