October is Children's Health Month: Requiem for Deamonte Driver
We can celebrate and observe Children's Health Month in the context of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) applying ten years of environmental protection research to protecting the lives of children. But the devil is in the details. On February 25, 2007, 12 year old Deamonte Driver of Maryland died due to a bacterial brain abscess. The bacterial brain abscess was caused by untreated oral disease - rotted teeth. An $80 tooth extraction might have prevented his death, but his mother did not have health insurance, the family lost Medicaid insurance, and oral surgeons who accept Medicaid are difficult to find anyway. Cost of care for the two surgeries and six weeks of hospital care required to treat the brain abscess? $250,000.
Millions of children in the US do not have access to basic preventive and restorative dental care. Federal public officials need to stop shortchanging oral health programs. We need water fluoridation, and universal availability of preventive care so that children can feel good about themselves and participate fully in school and extracurricular activities. Americhoice, (a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group), provided a $200,000 grant to the University of Maryland Dental School in August, 2007 to provide outreach to poor children in Maryland. Alyce Driver, Deamonte's mother, participated in the ceremony.
Representative Elijah Cummings of Baltimore, MD introduced legislation - Deamonte's Law -
to help end the silent epidemic of untreated oral disease in our nation's poor children. An estimated 20 million children lack access to care. The 155,000 member American Dental Association (ADA) supports the legislation which highlights the need for pediatric dental specialists.
45 million Americans have no health insurance -10 million of those are children. The National (State Children's Health Insurance Program) SCHIP bill now awaits President Bush's approval. The bill provides stop gap insurance for families who are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid but without resources to pay for private insurance. The funds to pay for it are proposed to come from increased tax on cigarettes. The Senate passed the bill last week, as did the House of Representatives, but with less than the majority needed to override presidential veto. Tragic to think we have been denied the gift of one child's life due to lack of insurance. How many other Deamonte's walk among us, quietly bearing their pain, trying to get their homework done, unable to get the care they need through no fault of their own?
Thank you Children's Defense Fund for use of Deamonte's picture.