Jennifer Watson, Ph.D., recently received a $10,000 grant for a pilot research project to teach mothers in WIC clinics about oral health and caries prevention. Funding for the project was provided by a UF College of Dentistry seed grant.
Early childhood caries (ECC) is a serious health problem that impacts a disproportionate number of low-income children. Oral health disparities are most pronounced in preschool-aged children and low-income children are three times more likely to have early childhood caries than higher-income preschool children.
Watson, a research assistant professor in the department of community dentistry and behavioral science, joined the college in 2005. She received her bachelors in psychology from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., her masters in experimental psychology at Villanova University in Villanova, Pa., and her doctorate in clinical psychology from The University of Memphis, in Memphis, Tenn. She did her post-doctorate internship at The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, specializing in behavioral medicine.
This project will provide important pilot data to aid in the development of a theoretically-based intervention to increase low-income women’s knowledge and use of preventive behaviors for ECC.
There are four central hypotheses for the research project:
(1) Low-income women have low knowledge and use of disease preventive behaviors
(2) Low-income women have high levels of depression and low levels of self-efficacy regarding their ability to prevent ECC in their children
(3) Focusing interventions to address these important behavioral, psychological and social factors will inform more successful interventions for this high-risk population
(4) WIC clinics are effective venues for reaching the high-risk population of low-income women and children.
Information from the pilot project will be used to design and evaluate a theoretically based intervention focusing on the key behavioral, psychological and social factors that influence mothers’ knowledge of and use of disease preventive behavior for caries in their children.