Children's advocacy group filling the gap in healthcare screenings

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - A South Mississippi children's advocacy group says getting ready to go back to school is about more than buying supplies and uniforms. This weekend Hope Haven sponsored a children's health fair in Waveland. While the healthcare debate rages on in Congress, organizers say they're working to help community kids live healthier lives right now.

Six-year-old Brendan's grandmother says she knows if he can't see well, he can't do well in school. That's why she took Brendan and his brother to the children's health fair.

"I want to get them ready for school and want them to have a good year in school this year," said Gloria Doussan. "I thought it was important to get their eyes and teeth checked."

Dr. Frank Conaway looked inside little mouths checking for cavities, abscesses and other conditions he says can become major health problems if not caught early. He says it's not easy for many parents to get their children to the dentist's office.

"A lot of it's money. It's sometimes hard to afford doing all of that and everything else," Dr. Conaway said. "Any community needs screenings and fairs to help everybody have access to these types of things."

Terry Latham, the director of Hope Haven, agrees.

"I know there are a lot of dental issues here in Hancock County, because one of the last things people will do usually is spend money on dental care," Latham said. "With the big push for healthcare and everything like that, we feel that this is something our community can do to make ourselves and our own children healthier. That's a good thing to do."

Hope Haven officials say the children's health fair was Hancock County's first since Hurricane Katrina. They say while Washington is sorting out healthcare reform, some children here are going without basic services.

"Most of the low income people, even if they are eligible for Medicaid or CHIPS, there are only a few dentists for example that will accept Medicaid," Latham said. "The wait is long. They usually don't include vision screening at all, so we're trying to fill the gap basically."

The Lions Club provided the vision screenings for the health fair.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.