Once you decide on the populations you wish to serve and you know something about their oral health needs, outline your goals and the outcomes you would like to achieve.
Be clear about your motivations for wanting to create a program. For example, is your primary goal to provide services to an underserved group or is it to provide educational experiences for dental or dental hygiene students? Service oriented programs vs. educational programs may have very different objectives, staffing patterns and scheduling issues, although the activities to accomplish the objectives are similar. Are you trying to raise awareness of oral health problems to gain more funding for a variety of programs, or are you trying to fill a specific gap in the local dental care system? If you can't meet all the needs of your target population, how are you going to interface with other community resources to help patients get all the care they need?
Think carefully about what impact your program will have. Thinking through ways to evaluate your program up front is also crucial so that you can document your beginning (baseline) situation and then compare your accomplishments to that baseline. Evaluation is an integral part of program planning and should not be left until the end of a grant or when a program is threatened to figure out how to document success. See Chapter 5 for more information on evaluation.
What preliminary decisions must be made? View a case study of a decision-making process about starting services for elementary school children who are not receiving regular care. Read the following case studies, stories or Web site descriptions to see a variety of programs and how they were developed or expanded.
Three other programs are featured in Chapter 4 as hybrid systems: Apple Tree Dental, USC Mobile Van Program and Rochester's Collaborative School-Based Dental Program.
Examine the environment in which the program will be created - what are the
resources and liabilities you currently have? How will other dental providers
in the community react to your program? A useful exercise to examine the many
variables is through a SWOT
analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. After doing
this analysis, if you decide there are significant weaknesses and threats,
these will need to be addressed prior to embarking on any mobile or portable
program. A good way to reduce these problems is by establishing strong community partnerships.