Childsmile is the national child oral health improvement programme for Scotland.
It was developed as pilot studies from 2006/7, building on an established national supervised toothbrushing programme in nursery schools. By 2011, an integrated programme was in place in all NHS Boards across the country.
An integrated theory-based evaluation led by the University of Glasgow, funded by the Scottish Government, has been an important feature of the programme from its outset.
Since August 2013, the Childsmile approach has been adopted in Chile, England, Israel, Malawi, the Netherlands, countries of Southeastern Europe and Vanuatu.
To understand and tackle the social determinants of childs oral health and reduce child oral health inequalities.
The in-depth, mixed-methods process evaluation assesses how closely the programme is operating according to how it was envisioned initially, ie whether the anticipated changes in service provision and behaviours, necessary for child oral health improvement, have occurred. This includes, for example: activity levels for fluoride varnish applications in education and dental practice settings; dental registration and attendance rates; toothbrushing activity; DHSW and other community-based early years’ activity. Where necessary, research is conducted to investigate the barriers and facilitators for the implementation of component parts of the programme. Identification of these factors can facilitate ongoing refinement to enhance programme delivery still further.
Outcomes from the programme are being investigated mainly via a pioneering big data linkage project. This involves linking multiple routine administrative national health and education datasets to create a birth cohort to evaluate the complex multiple interventions of Childsmile with a range of health and education outcomes.
An economic evaluation, investigating the cost-effectiveness of the programme and its components, accompanies this work. Furthermore, an embedded, randomized control trial of the nursery fluoride varnish programme – Protecting Teeth @ 3 trial10 – has recently been completed.
Evaluation is ongoing
The programme is a complex multifaceted programme delivering prevention interventions in multiple settings (through health visitors, in communities with dental health support workers, in nurseries/school settings, and in dental practices). The programme has not been a single fixed model but has been dynamic and evolving since its establishment. Part of its success of Childsmile has been the long- term vision and support from successive Scottish Governments (of differing political make-ups) since its inception in 2005/06. The ongoing evaluation of the programme has also been crucial to programme development and achievements. While there has been considerable success in improvement of child oral health in Scotland over this period, there remains substantial ongoing challenges including persistent inequalities in child oral health; and more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the Childsmile programme and stalled the trend of improving child oral health in Scotland. Ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the Childsmile programme is essential to meeting the challenge of child oral health and inequalities both in Scotland and globally.
Monitoring of the Childsmile Programme has key functions: management (including workforce planning and training); feedback of data to inform programme development; and evaluation (in relation to programme reach and effectiveness).
The monitoring data for the Childsmile programme are collated electronically through the University of Dundee Health Informatics Centre (HIC) (external website) hin partnership with Public Health Scotland (PHS), and university of Glasgow Childsmile Evaluation Research Team (CERT). PHS working with colleagues in the Practitioner Services Division (PSD) NSS, process GP17 forms, which, in addition to assisting payment for practitioners, provides data for the monitoring and evaluation of Childsmile Practice. PHS also coordinate data received from NHS Boards, which benchmarks progress with the Childsmile Supervised Toothbrushing component. Data from monitoring sources is used to produce annual headline reports which present longitudinal data for the Integrated Childsmile Programme at a national level. Where appropriate, data are presented by Health Board and Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. A principal aim of these documents is to show progress over time for all components of the programme.
Additional Support Needs – child oral health
- Investigating oral health and preventive service access among children with intellectual disabilities and additional educational support needs.
- Population-based data linkage cohort study
- Funded by Baily Thomas Foundation (2018-2023)
Preventing Early Childhood Caries
- Building an international consensus for Early Childhood Caries prevention in education settings.
- A systematic overview of the literature and Delphi approach
- Mapping and benchmarking Early Childhood Prevention programmes in South-Eastern European countries
- Funded by Borrow Foundation (2021-2023)
Early Childhood Caries (ECC) and inequalities- the role of behaviours, social determinants, and the impact of the Childsmile programme: A novel data linkage cohort study
- Linking social, economic, family, child level data from the Growing up in Scotland Survey to routinely collected population wide caries and Childsmile intervention data from the Child Oral Health Data Lab within the National Safe Haven.
- Funded by Borrow Foundation (2021-2025)
Poor oral health in childhood as an early predictor of multimorbidity: The Canary in the Mine?
- Development of a childhood multimorbidity index to identify if poor oral health signals an early risk for multimorbidity, and if the Childsmile programme can offer early interventions to mitigate this.
- Population wide data linkage using our Child Oral Health Data Lab within the National Safe Haven.
- Development of a PPI group for multimorbidity in childhood.
- Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training programme in multimorbidity for Health professionals 2024-2027
Honorary Staff and Affiliates
Budur Almutairi, Developing and evaluating a Toothbrushing Programme in Saudi Arabia (TOPS) – through a cluster randomized controlled trial in kindergartens in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Kyle Cousins, Childhood Caries: understanding the role of early life behaviours and social determinants on risk and inequalities: A novel data linkage cohort study. Funded by the Borrow Foundation in collaboration with ScotCen.
Jennifer Eaves, Optimising delivery of the Childsmile nursery supervised toothbrushing programme.
Emma Fletcher, Optimising family toothbrushing behaviours in the home in early years in Scotland: developing and evaluating a community based intervention. Funded by Haleon in collaboration with ACTA.
Aalia Karamat, Enhancing Scotland's Childsmile programme through Community Linking to address child oral health inequalities.
Ahmed Mahmoud, Investigating the role of ethnicity and socioeconomic factors in the oral health of children in Scotland.
Ryan Stewart, Obesity and dental caries in children in 2 Scotland: trends, inequalities and the reach 3 and impact of the Childsmile programme. Funded by Glasgow Children’s Charity in collaboration with Strathclyde University.
Celis Sersen, Andrés Osvaldo (2022) Evaluation of the impart of national oral health improvement programmes of Chile on the oral health of the child population. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
Anopa, Yulia (2020) Economics of primary caries prevention in preschool children. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
Kidd, Jamie Brian Rutherford (2019) Developing a population data linkage cohort to investigate the impact on child oral health outcomes following the roll-out of the Childsmile programme in Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
Hodgins, Faith (2017) A mixed methods evaluation of Childsmile's targeted and tailored Dental Health Support Worker intervention. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
Young, Mairi Anne (2017) Optimising the role of the dental health support worker in Childsmile Practice: a comparative Realist approach. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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