Oral Health Alliance addresses U.S. challenges

More than 140 leaders gathered at the Leadership Colloquium of the U.S. National Oral Health Alliance on March 13 and 14 in Chicago to encourage collaborative, multidisciplinary approaches to improve oral health and address disparities for vulnerable populations.

Terry Dickinson, DDS, founder of the Missions of Mercy Project, focused the group on the urgent need across the nation for oral health prevention and access.

"As much as I love what I do, I hate to have to do it," said Dr. Dickinson in a press release. "Missions of Mercy will be 12 years old in July. I am haunted by memories of a mother who spent her last $20 on gasoline to drive to a Missions of Mercy clinic. That was unacceptable."

Specifically, participants of the Chicago meeting explored ideas to:

  • Put dental and oral disease prevention at the center of statewide public health efforts
  • Develop public-private partnerships that will advance and strengthen oral health
  • Create a public awareness effort to give individuals the tools to prevent disease and stay healthy

"This shared commitment to establish common ground and work collectively to solve oral health problems is shaping this alliance," said Cesar Sabates, DDS, president of the Florida Dental Association and a private practitioner in Coral Gables, FL. "As momentum grows, we can expect progress within the next decade."

Caswell Evans, DDS, MPH, associate dean of prevention and public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, challenged the group to consider what a culture of prevention and public health, including oral health, in the U.S. would look like.

The alliance is focused on six priority areas where there is opportunity to effect change on behalf of optimal oral health:

  1. Prevention and public health infrastructure
  2. Oral health literacy
  3. Medical and dental collaboration
  4. Metrics for improving oral health
  5. Financing models
  6. Strengthening the dental care delivery system

The alliance will hold its third Leadership Colloquium, focusing on oral health literacy, June 6-7, 2012.

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