Sesame Street in Communities Launches New Effort in Los Angeles to Support Children’s Oral Health

December 17, 2019

Program features partnership with UCLA’s More LA Smiles, new oral health videos and resources, and Comfy-Cozy spaces to lay the foundation for good oral heal

(Los Angeles, CA)  - Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street, is announcing new efforts across Los Angeles to support oral health for young children across Los Angeles. Kicking off with a visit from Walkaround Grover, 250 children joined Sesame Street in Communities at Maple Primary Center for a full day of fun oral health activities, including a special message from Grover himself.

Today’s announcement marks a deepened commitment to helping children across Los Angeles grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. In partnership with UCLA Dentistry, a series of focus groups will be conducted to better understand attitudes and beliefs on oral health among various demographics and ultimately inform effective messaging for families to encourage healthy oral health routines. Additionally, through a new partnership with UCLA’s More LA Smiles, more than 100,000 Sesame Street in Communities “Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me” books will be available at dental screenings across Los Angeles.

“We’re thrilled to continue Sesame Street in Communities’ presence in Los Angeles by partnering with providers like UCLA’s More LA Smiles on these new oral health efforts,” said Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President of US Social Impact, Sesame Workshop. “At Sesame Workshop, we’re committed to giving children the best start in life by fostering healthy habits at a young age. Together with our partners, we’re laying the foundation for good oral health for children across Los Angeles.”

“We at UCLA are very excited to be partnering with Sesame Street in Communities as part of our More LA Smiles program to raise awareness about the importance of good oral health starting early in life,” said Dr. Jim Crall, More LA Smiles Program Director and professor of Public Health & Community Dentistry at UCLA. “I’ve seen how Sesame Street and their Muppets help young children and their families develop healthy habits—like daily toothbrushing, eating fruits and vegetables, drinking water, and seeing the dentist regularly. Sesame Workshop knows how to help children and families learn these valuable lessons, and we’re happy to be working with Sesame Street in Communities here in Los Angeles and with their network of partners throughout the U.S.”

In addition to the partnership with UCLA’s More LA Smiles, two new Sesame Street in Communities “Comfy-Cozy spaces” featuring Sesame Street materials were created to help provide comfort to children during visits to the school nurse and dental and medical visits, which can often be stressful. The new space is located in the Nurse’s office at Maple Primary Center and at the dental clinic at T.H.E. Clinic, with additional Comfy-Cozy spaces planned for 2020. The new spaces are enhanced by brand new Sesame Street murals created by Smilemakers, a provider of décor for pediatric dental and medical practices. The new SmileMakers murals are designed to calm children during dental and medical visits.

“SmileMakers is honored to play a role in this new Sesame Workshop initiative,” said Chris Merritt, Executive Vice President and General Manager at SmileMakers. “Not only do we have a long-standing relationship with Sesame Street, but our company history revolves around comforting and calming children during dental and medical visits.”

Today’s announcement builds on existing Sesame Street in Communities efforts in Los Angeles to support children’s oral health. To-date, more than 5,000 Sesame Street in Communities “Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me” toolkits have been distributed in partnership with LA Trust, who has reached more than 1,000 children with oral health screenings enhanced by Sesame resources.

Los Angeles was named one of just three communities selected for the Sesame Street in Communities pilot program in 2017, and since then, Sesame Workshop and its partners have focused on raising awareness about adverse childhood experiences and the impact of traumatic experiences on young children, in addition to oral health. In partnership with local providers, Sesame Street in Communities provides virtual courses, webinars, and videos that can be embedded into programming to help children and families navigate challenges large and small.

Using the power of the beloved Muppets of Sesame Street, the resources are designed to build coping skills and foster nurturing connections between children and the caring adults in their lives. All resources are available for free in English and Spanish at sesamestreetincommunities.org. Looking ahead to 2020, over 100 additional providers will receive training through the Child Care Alliance Quality Start LA network.

Sesame Street in Communities is made possible by generous support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated solely to health, and the Joan Ganz Cooney Fund for Vulnerable Children. In addition to Los Angeles, Sesame Street in Communities has partnered with Kansas City, MO, Guilford County, NC, Los Angeles, CA, Memphis, TN, Transylvania County, NC, the Mississippi Delta, Camden, NJ, and Kansas City, KS. Over the next five years, Sesame Street in Communities aims to reach 35 local communities across the country.

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