RAND Study Examines Access to Dental Care in Pennsylvania

Although it is preventable, dental disease is perhaps the most prevalent chronic childhood illness in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of children 5 to 11 years old have one tooth with untreated decay, a situation that may lead to more severe health problems. Youth from lower-income families have a higher rate of untreated tooth decay than their peers.

As dental care has long been a component of public health policyRAND examined access to dental care across Pennsylvania using a series of indicators to determine the distribution and available of dentists and dental hygienists. Two counties (Potter and Juniata) did not meet the guideline of full-time dentist per number of residents. Other counties varied greatly across study indicators. A sample of findings:

  • Two counties do not have dentists that accept Medicaid.
  • 58 percent of counties in Pennsylvania do not have pediatric dental specialists.
  • High unemployment rates were associated with fewer providers of dental care.
  • The Head Start program appears to be a successful method in getting dental care to children who might not otherwise have access to it.

The full report, including a discussion of associations of the study’s access-to-care indicators to each other, as well as to county demographics, is available for download on the RAND website.



Citation:  Baird, Matthew D., Michelle K. Baird and Joseph V. Vesely. Access to Dental Providers in Pennsylvania: Exploration of the County-Level Distribution of Dental Providers and Populations in 2013. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2016. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1351.html.


Study Identifies Patterns in Rural Grants

A study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service suggests that grants to rural-based organizations are on the decline.  The report, Foundation Grants to Rural Areas from 2005 to 2010: Trends and Patterns by John Pender, examined data on grants from the Foundation Center (of at least $10,000 awarded by the largest private and community U.S. foundations between 2005-2010), the National Center for Charitable Statistics, the Census Bureau, and USDA’s Economic Research Service to identify patterns grant distribution to rural communities in the United States.

Although 19 percent of the country’s population is located in rural areas, Pender concludes that grant funding “to rural-based organizations accounted for 5.5 percent of the real value of domestic grants by large foundations during 2005 to 2010, with a slight downward trend (based on Foundation Center data on grants by the largest 1,200 to 1,400 foundations).”  A random sample of large foundations found that 6.3 percent of the total value of grants awarded in 2010 went to organizations in rural areas. Analysis using a sample of small foundations found the rural share of total grant value went from 7.5 percent in 2005 to 7 percent in 2010. During this time period the majority of grants to rural communities came from independent foundations.

Other findings from the study:

  • The average dollar value per person of grants from large foundations to rural organizations was $88, versus $192 per person in metro counties.
  • Counties with more college-educated residents (even when grants to universities and students were removed from the sample) received more grants per person.
  • Rural organizations received more grants related to higher education, environment, and recreation/leisure than their urban counterparts.



Report Citation:  Pender, John L. Foundation Grants to Rural Areas Frrom 2005 to 2010: Trends and Patterns, EIB-141, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, June 2015.

Rural Veteran PTSD Care Funded

Late last month the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced funding for the Mental and Behavioral Health Education and Training Program, an initiative meant to increase the number and availability of social workers and psychologists in rural areas, specifically to assist military veterans and their families.  Nearly $10 million in grants were awarded to institutions (including two in eastern Pennsylvania and one in West Virginia) to support study and clinical training in the areas of trauma and abuse, combat-related stress and substance abuse.  Although about 28 percent of the 22 million veterans in the United States reside in rural areas, treatment for PTSD and other combat-related conditions remains difficult to find and may lack the required intensity.  These grants aim to increase both the availability and intensity of trauma–related mental health care, as well as services to families of persons with chronic illnesses in rural areas.

SAMHSA Report: Marijuana, Heroin Use Up Overall but Fewer Youth Using Painkillers Recreationally

If you run (or write grants for) programs dealing with drug use and/or prevention you may be interested in the new report discussing the results of the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The annual survey examines use of illicit drugs, alcohol, and tobacco products using a sample of persons living in the United States who are over 12 years of age and not in the military or an institution of some sort.

According to the 2011 data, the rate of current (defined as within the past 30 days)  drug use among persons aged 12 or older did not change much overall compared to the rate from the prior year (8.7 percent versus 8.9 percent). The most commonly used drug was marijuana, with an increased rate of use  of 7 percent in 2011, up from 5.8  percent in 2010.

Among youths aged 12 to 17 years, the rate of current  illicit drug use remained stable at approximately 10 percent between 2010 and 2011, but was still higher than the 2008 rate of 9.3 percent.  There has been no decline in marijuana use among this population since 2006.  Among youths aged 12 to 17, the rate of current non-medical use of prescription drugs declined from 4 percent in 2002 to 2.8 percent in 2011.

Persons over the age of 12 who reported trying a new drug in the last year most often used marijuana, followed by the non-medical use of painkillers.  Among those who reported recreational (non-medical) use of pain relievers in the past 12 months, over 54 percent obtained them through a friend or relative for no cost, while just over 18 percent reported they were prescribed the drug by a doctor.  Less than 4 percent procured painkillers from an unknown person (stranger) or drug dealer.

Over 6 percent of the population reported drinking heavily in 2011, a drop of nearly half a percent. The rate of current alcohol use among youths aged 12 to 17 remained stable at 13.3 percent in 2011 (13.6 percent in 2010) as did their rates for binge drinking and heavy drinking. Among underage drinkers, their last experience with alcohol was most likely in someone else’s home (57 percent) while 28.2 percent reported last drinking in their residence.

Between 2002 and 2010, the count of persons reporting substance dependence or abuse fluctuated little (from 21.6 million to 22.7 million) and dropped slightly in 2011  to 22.2 million. Marijuana (used by 4.2 million), non-medical use of pain relievers (used by 1.8 million), and cocaine (used by 0.8 million) had the highest rates of dependence or abuse reported in the last year.  An interesting, and disturbing, trend – the number of people reporting heroin dependence/abuse  nearly doubled between 2007 (214,000) and 2011 (426,000).    Heroin use is growing in popularity  (620,000 past year users in 2011 compared to  373,000 in 2007 according to the survey data) and is expanding out of urban areas, possibly in response to the crackdown on prescription drug availability and abuse and the reformulation of some highly addictive pain relievers.


The report is available for download at the SAMHSA website.



Report Citation:  Results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-44, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 12-4713. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2012.