ADA launches program to provide dental care in underserved areas
CHICAGO, IL, USA: The American Dental Association (ADA) recently launched a pilot program in several states to deliver needed dental care to underserved people in urban, rural and Native American communities. The program, developed by the ADA over the past several years, creates a new dental health team member, the Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC).
CDHCs are drawn from the communities they are intended to serve, and they are supported by a dental team working under the supervision of a dentist. They can help people in an underserved community in many valuable ways. As members of a community, they serve as role models by empowering their neighbors to take an active role in their oral health care such as brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing and eating a balanced diet — critical to breaking the cycle of dental disease. They are able to link patients to existing community-based, public health assistance programs and Medicaid. CDHCs are also trained to provide a range of preventive care services, such as fluoride treatments and placement of sealants. Most importantly, the CDHC is trained to identify serious dental conditions that require immediate attention and will get patients to a dentist.
“We celebrate the roll-out of this program which the ADA and our partners have worked on meticulously over the past years,” said ADA President Dr John S. Findley. “This outreach effort is one of several ways that the ADA is addressing access to oral health issues.”
The ADA developed the CDHC curriculum over the past several years. Broadly described, it consists of a 12-month period of academic course work, followed by a six-month field internship. Students in several states recently began the academic portion of their training, which is provided via the Internet.
The CDHC program is a collaborative effort that has drawn together several academic institutions, each of which is responsible for specific training. These schools include the University of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, University of California Los Angeles, Salish Kootenai College, located on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Pablo, MT, and Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry in Philadelphia, which will launch its program this summer. Rio Salado Community College in Tempe, AZ, is supporting the program by providing the academic study portion online.
The CDHC program will train a total of 18 CDHCs in the 2009-2010 academic year. The same number of CDHCs will be graduated over the two remaining program years, to produce a total 54 CDHCs. During the course of this effort, the ADA and its partners will evaluate the program to determine its success in fulfilling its mission.
“Our dental school partners and the ADA believe that CDHCs have enormous potential to deliver oral health care to underserved populations,” said Dr Findley. “While it is not possible at this juncture to predict the outcome and efficacy of this initiative, our partners and members have expressed enthusiasm and optimism for this model and for what it might achieve.”
Advocating for better health
The CDHC program is part of the ADA’s multi-tiered approach to extending dental care to people who would otherwise go without access to oral health. The ADA is working to improve access at the federal level by advocating for appropriate funding in public health insurance programs for oral health services, such as Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Indian Health Service programs. The ADA also lobbied for the Dental Health Improvement Act that provides funding for state dental workforce programs, thereby improving access to dental care. These efforts by the ADA are helping improve access to oral health for millions of Americans.
(Edited by Fred Michmershuizen, DTI)