This proposed K99/R00 career development award application will support academic preparation and the initiation of an independent research career focused on multilevel factors associated with oral health using a strengths-based approach to reduce pediatric oral health disparities. The oral health of a child cannot be separated from family, community and the environment; thus it is vital to include a multilevel perspective in any comprehensive model of children's oral health. My research in the K99 phase will describe the maternal psychosocial and behavioral factors associated with ECC and also will describe the prevalence of dental caries in a sample of Latino children. Measures taken from the Basic Research Factors Questionnaire (BRFQ) will be used to describe psychosocial and behavioral factors (e.g., oral health locus of control, health beliefs, self- efficacy, Sense o Coherence, stress, importance of oral health, oral health knowledge and behaviors) in Latina mothers of preschool children in Denver, Colorado. The results of this study will be compared to that of a high-risk American Indian population in which similar measures from the BRFQ were used. During the R00 phase, a mixed methods approach will be used to describe the differences at child, family and community levels for caries-free and caries-active urban dwelling Latino children. This methodology will capture the factors measured by the BRFQ survey and then will use qualitative methods to further probe characteristics at each level. I will use asset mapping, which is one on the strengths-based approaches, to describe the protective health assets that enhance the ability of individuals, families, communities and social systems to maintain and sustain oral health and to help reduce oral health inequities in high risk and vulnerable groups.
The proposed research and training has three-fold relevance for public health. First, the award will promote to mentor and nurture a new investigator, who has a background in dentistry and public health and is committed to reducing oral health disparities in the United States. Second, this project will use a multidisciplinary and multi-method approach to describe the protective factors against early childhood caries in Latino children at individual, family and community level. Through this research we will be able to understand why some children, despite being at high risk for developing dental caries, remain caries-free. This will not only add essential and indispensable information to the literature but will guide other investigators in their research. Finally, this research will develop a conceptual outline for behavioral interventions based on the principles of strength based approaches in a community rather than based on pathological model.