The Joseph L. Henry Oral Health Fellowship Practicums 2009-2010

E. Elon Joffre, DMD, MPH
Joseph L. Henry Oral Health Fellow in Minority Health Policy

“Creating a National Alliance to Improve Access to Dental Care for Underserved Populations”

Background:

Building on the ADA’s “Access to Care Summit” of June 2009 where 144 dental stakeholders met to address access to care issues, this project involves establishing a unified, national organization comprised of integral stakeholders to define and implement common goals, objectives and strategies to improve access to dental care for underserved populations and eliminate oral health disparities. There often are independent silos with inconsistent messages about oral health care goals, objectives, strategies and implementation methods. There currently is no such organization that includes representation from all vital stakeholders with a cohesive approach to addressing oral health disparities and solving the access to dental care problem. The DentaQuest foundation has been tapped as the interim facilitator to continue the progress made at the “Access to Care Summit” and to help advance the post-summit initiatives.

Project:

The objective of this project was to initiate and continue the process to develop a national alliance that will address access to dental care and improve oral health equity. Specifically to undertake the ground work required to establish a national coalition of oral health stakeholders that will formulate and take ownership and responsibility of a plan to define and implement a strategy to improve access to dental care; and to serve as a member of that alliance. The methods will include literature review and internet searches on structuring and running a start-up alliance, interviews with organizers and facilitators of state oral health coalitions from Massachusetts, attending stakeholder meetings and interacting with other organizations involved in establishing the national alliance. Specific tasks will be defining, designing and promoting an ideal, consensus organizational structure for an alliance to members of the coordination and communications workgroup and determining learning content for strategy development and meetings.

Next Steps:

Forming an alliance of this magnitude will take time and will present many challenges. There are a few important areas that will have to be addressed. One critical component to the success of the alliance will be the leadership of this diverse group. Strong governance principles and leadership have to emerge for the alliance to move from these initial stages and become a viable, credible agent of change.  A second important area is the alliance’s ability to engage the underserved communities to be a part of the process and the solution. Third, there will also need to be an excellent level of communication amongst the various stakeholders as well as with the community for trust to be established and maintained. Finally, there will have to be a stable source of funding for the alliance to continue to exist. All of the stakeholders need to commit to ensuring the alliance has the resources it needs to grow and prosper. This proposal of a national alliance to address access to dental care for the underserved is essential to the improvement of the dental delivery system. However, it is not the ultimate solution to oral health disparities which are also tied to the social determinants that affect underserved communities.

Preceptor:

Michael Monopoli, DMD, MPH, MS, Director of Policy and Planning, DentaQuest Foundation

Sponsoring Organization: DentaQuest Foundation