Fort Belknap Reservation Map
Map by Kristen Drumheller
Brushing Lesson at Fort Belknap

With some playful interaction, a boy on the Fort Belknap Reservation learns the importance of good oral hygiene.

Elizabeth Kinion

Project Leader Elizabeth Kinion, Ed.D, MSN, FAAN
MSU College of Nursing (retired)


Early Childhood Caries (ECC) is an acute and virulent form of dental decay that destroys the primary dentition of infants and toddlers, resulting in devastating impacts to child development and well-being and lasting consequences into adulthood. Children afflicted with ECC can suffer from poor nutrition, failure to thrive, poor self-esteem, pain, infection, and even death.

Using community-based participatory research, this groundbreaking partnership between Montana State University and researchers on the Fort Belknap Reservation examined the common problem of ECC among Native communities. Through cooperation with rural families, researchers took crucial first steps toward developing and implementing an ECC-prevention program that can be community-centric, data-driven, and—most importantly—sustainable in rural settings of all kinds.

Dr. Kinion retired in May 2018. CAIRHE will continue its important work in this prominent field of health equity in Montana in the years ahead.

Related Publications and Presentations (Selected)

McKeon-Hanson, E., & Kinion, E. A tribal college and research university collaboration utilizing community based participatory research to address early childhood caries among American Indian children: A descriptive study, conceptual framework, and lessons learned. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Kinion, E. (2016). We can't do it alone: Building interprofessional relationships. Presentation at the 2016 Montana Public Health Association Annual Conference, Billings, MT.

Investigator Spotlight

Dr. Kinion’s early years were spent in the Seeley Lake area of Montana, where her grandparents and other family members had close friends in nearby tribal and rural communities. The older family members hunted and fished together in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. “One of the things I enjoy most is working in these beautiful parts of our state among communities with long and storied traditions,” she said.

Although her nursing background did not originally include oral health, Dr. Kinion’s research over the past decade and her expertise in interprofessional education made her a respected authority among scholars and practitioners in the field. She introduced an oral health curriculum to the MSU College of Nursing, where she co-taught a seminar on the subject to nurse practitioner students. She also mentored graduate students who undertake projects related to oral health. “I learned that’s where I can help them the most,” she said, “and it’s something that’s desperately needed among nursing students who will work in rural areas.”