Partners chosen during this first phase of the initiative include nonprofit organizations from Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Each organization will receive up to $100,000 plus additional resources to bring together key stakeholders in their areas and develop a two-year plan to move their oral health projects forward.
According to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, nearly 5 million children went without regular dental checkups in 2008 because of financial limitations, and 33.3 million Americans live in an area with a shortage of dental professionals. The multiyear Oral Health 2014 Initiative aims to eliminate such disparities by supporting organizations that are building community partnerships.
"This is a really important moment for oral health," said Ralph Fuccillo, president of the DentaQuest Foundation. "These 20 state organizations enhance the national movement of collaborative leaders who are embracing the challenge and the opportunity to address oral health disparities in their communities."
The foundation will not be just a passive grant maker, noted Michael Monopoli, DMD, MPH, director of policy and planning for the foundation.
"We want to be an active partner," he told DrBicuspid.com. "We will have dedicated resources to provide technical assistance to the grantees. We are taking a blended approach of providing financial resources at the community level and also providing them the skills at the community level to move these projects forward."
Nearly 70 organizations expressed interest in the Oral Health 2014 initiative and its objectives. Thirty-six organizations were invited to submit full proposals.
The selected organizations were the most successful in demonstrating an ability to engage multiple partners -- those typically involved in oral health as well as less traditional stakeholders -- in their communities, DentaQuest noted.
"What we were looking for was the organization in each state that is best positioned to bring a broad group of constituents together," Dr. Monopoli said. "We were also looking for organizations that demonstrated they can quickly lead a planned project -- that can bring the groups together, develop a concrete platform, and move it forward quickly. This is a new way of doing business."
Each organization will now develop an action plan to address one or more of six oral health improvement areas identified at a 2009 national meeting on oral health access -- improvement areas that now also guide the newly formed U.S. National Oral Health Alliance:
- Prevention and public health infrastructure
- Oral health literacy
- Medical/dental collaboration
- Developing metrics for improving oral health
- Financing models
- Strengthening the dental care delivery system
The alliance and the Oral Health 2014 initiative are just a subset of DentaQuest Foundation's investments in improving access to care for underserved populations and overall oral health across the U.S., according to Brian Souza, managing director of the foundation.
"These two initiatives alone represent a $2 million investment in 2011," he told DrBicuspid.com. "But in addition, we are in investing in grants and other program initiatives totaling another $5 million in 2011, all to support and promote optimal oral health. Clearly, there is some emphasis on underserved populations, but it is not just about access -- there is also a focus on prevention, such as the oral health safety net and promoting collaboration between medical and dental professionals."
Over the past several years, the foundation has been working to become a national entity influencing the systems that affect oral health, Souza added.
"We want to make investments both top-down and bottom-up, at the federal, state, and community levels," he said.
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