UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The experiences of caregivers whose children access dental care under the Healthy Kids Dental Program Melanson, Sharon Louise


Objectives: The intent of publicly financed dental insurance programs is to provide to children in deprived circumstances the coverage they need to remove the financial barrier to obtaining dental treatment. Recent research has revealed that publicly financed programs available to adults have failed to overcome financial barriers to dental care for many, yet surprisingly there has been no research on this issue regarding access to treatment for children. Assessing how well publicly financed dental programs are meeting the needs of children is a significant gap in the literature and this study was undertaken in an attempt to begin to fill that gap. This study is limited to the Healthy Kids Dental Program of British Columbia. Methods: Qualitative description was the method used for this study. Little is known about this issue of children accessing dental care under publicly financed dental programs, therefore this research was exploratory. Because the research was intended to uncover the range of experiences for a specific population, the sampling technique was purposeful and sought maximum variation. Data collection was via 16 semi-structured interviews, primarily from residents in the North and Central Okanagan (14), and two from the Kootenay Boundary area. The data were analyzed using the method of content analysis. This research sought to describe phenomena by uncovering the voice of those affected through stories of their experiences. Results: The Healthy Kids Dental Program did work very well for some families. Parents greatly appreciated the financial help that was provided. However, over half of participants interviewed did not have the financial help they needed from the program to obtain dental care. The results show that for many people the publicly financed dental program for children in BC is not doing what it was developed to do, i.e., help parents overcome financial barriers to obtaining dental treatment for their children. Conclusion: The Healthy Kids Dental Program is valued, the program is serving some participants well but failing others, and there exists a discrepancy between what the dentist bills and what the government funds. This is creating financial barriers to dental care that some families cannot overcome.

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