OBJECTIVES: We explored the oral health knowledge, attitudes, and activities of Early Head Start (EHS) staff members, parents, and pregnant women, along with their suggestions related to future oral health educational interventions targeting EHS children.
METHODS: Nine focus groups were conducted with EHS staff, parents, and pregnant women. Audiotapes of sessions were transcribed and entered into ATLAS.ti 5.0 for coding and analysis.
RESULTS: Attitudes about the importance of children’s oral health among parents and pregnant women were mixed. Staff members voiced responsibility for children’s oral health but frustration in their inability to communicate effectively with parents. Parents in turn perceived staff criticism regarding how they cared for their children’s oral health. Gaps were noted in the oral health activities of EHS programs. Participants expressed confusion regarding the application of Head Start oral health performance standards to EHS. The need for culturally sensitive, hands-on oral health education was highlighted.
CONCLUSIONS: Tailored, theory-based interventions are needed to improve communication between EHS staff and families. Clear policies on the application of Head Start oral health performance standards to EHS are warranted. Educational activities should address the needs and suggestions of EHS participants.