ADHA apologizes for role in sustained systemic racism

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The American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) is apologizing for its role in perpetuating a culture of discrimination among communities of color, according to a press release issued March 3 by the organization.

In association with its upcoming 100th anniversary, the ADHA sent an apology to the National Dental Hygienists' Association (NDHA) acknowledging that African American dental hygienists were forced to form the NDHA out of necessity. The ADHA recognizes that it has denied opportunities to people of color, which prompted these communities to form the NDHA, according to the release.

"We sincerely and deeply apologize to dental hygienists of color for our failure to confront discriminatory membership practices that expressly excluded them," the ADHA stated in its apology. "We are ashamed that we were no different from many national associations of the past century that permitted the exclusion of practitioners and professionals of color. Despite ADHA's reaffirmation of its policy on open membership in 1965, we recognize our failure to advocate for African American hygienists and the effects our complicity had on this community, some of which are felt to this day."

Furthermore, the ADHA reaffirmed its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity to drive its strategic initiatives. These initiatives are one of the core values in the association's 2020-2023 strategic plan, and they will be prioritized across every level of the organization, including governance, continuing education, and advocacy, to unite and empower the dental hygiene community while driving its mission to enhance the public's oral and overall health, Ann Battrell, MSDH, the ADHA CEO, said in the release.

"As leaders in oral health we must be willing to be accountable, and to actively work to eliminate inequities that exist for both dental hygienists and the patients we serve," Battrell said.

Finally, the ADHA's Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access committee is tasked with identifying areas for engaging the dental hygiene community and assessing organizational policies.

"We cannot celebrate the accomplishments of a century of our progress in oral health without also reflecting on, and reckoning with, the wrongdoing and harm that was caused by discrimination against dental hygienists of color on our watch," Sharlee Burch, RDH, MPH, EdD, the ADHA president, said in the release.

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