Tuesday, June 27, 2017

DentaQuest Foundation grassroots grantees ready to leap for oral health

I recently heard the perfect analogy for our oral health advocacy during the DentaQuest Foundation’s Grassroots Engagement Strategy annual meeting. It’s a saying gardeners have about the growth process of perennials: “The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, then the third year they leap!”  This year is the year for the grassroots organizations and their partners to leap!

DentaQuest Foundation’s Grassroots Engagement Strategy started in March 2015 as an initiative to engage those most directly impacted by oral health inequities. Focused in six key states - Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Virginia - the Grassroots Engagement Strategy leverages an existing network of key oral health advocates and stakeholders operating at the state level. The DentaQuest Foundation has funded 20 community-based organizations within these states to provide oral health outreach and take action on social justice and oral health equity, all with the goal of improving public perception of the value of oral health in their communities.

These 20 grantees represent deep and diverse experience working directly with community members and contribute essential perspectives of community advocacy and action. They are providing community-grounded voices within a broad group of stakeholders at the state, regional, and national levels, a perspective that is critical if we are to reach our mission of improving oral health for all.

The Grassroots Engagement Strategy has now entered its third year of development, and the purpose of the annual meeting this spring was for grantees to learn from one another about what has been accomplished in the last year, what is planned for the year ahead, and how to deepen the commitment to health equity.

On day one, each organization presented its community-driven plan that covered stakeholders, how they have incorporated the Oral Health 2020 goals into their communities, 2017 organizational priorities, their proudest moments, and their greatest challenges.

For example, one organization discussed advancing a legislative advocacy strategy around protecting oral health equity policies, while dealing with the major challenge that oral health is not a top priority for the community members facing other economic and social challenges.

On day two, many of the Oral Health 2020 national advocacy partners presented the resources and tools in development that will support the grassroots organizations in their work. Attendees also discussed how they can learn from one another and build their capacity to make change at the community level.

Additionally, there were presentations on different approaches to advocacy and lobbying, including how to provide empowerment opportunities for community members in advocacy and public policy.  Partners also discussed how they work collaboratively with other organizations to activate coalitions and networks that share common goals.

The underlying themes throughout the discussion:

  • health equity 
  • the link between oral health and other social determinants of health 
  • the implications that these have 
  • who  needs to be at the table  


Similar to previous years, the grassroots organizations returned home with a sense of rejuvenated momentum for oral health.   Words like “motivated,” “energized,” and “connected” were used by attendees format the close of the meeting.  With the political landscape changing, the role of grassroots organizations engaging in advocacy is even more critical at the local, state and national levels.

When community members are educated on the topic of oral health and have the passion and understanding of its impact, their voices are powerful.  

The Oral Health 2020 Network is excited to see the progress that will continue in these communities and beyond. The grassroots grantees are ready to “leap” into action for year three of the Grassroots Engagement Strategy!

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Guest post from DentaQuest Foundation's grants team member Liana DiRamio. Learn more about the grants and programs here: http://dentaquestfoundation.org/about/our-mission



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

DentaQuest Remains Voice for Oral Health Equity in Disparities Leadership Program

For the second straight year, DentaQuest is participating in the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Disparities Leadership Program. Last year, DentaQuest became the first oral health organization to be accepted into the program. Over the next 12 months, we will build upon our previous efforts to promote oral health equity for Medicaid and CHIP populations.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently released a paper that defines health equity as “the ethical and human rights principle that motivates us to eliminate health disparities,” both a process and an outcome.

Now in in its 11th year, the program gathers a variety of health care leaders to develop strategies that address disparities in health care. We are particularly excited to remain part of this team, which is designed to cultivate leaders who can align equity efforts with the transition to value-based health care.

DentaQuest is one of five health plans in this year’s class and once again the only oral health organization. Our project will focus on how to leverage data and our national footprint to identify and alleviate oral health disparities, while also promoting equity as a key objective for our own organization.


Why is it important that oral health leaders are involved?

Despite progress towards a more equitable health care system, oral health disparities persist.

  • Untreated dental disease is disproportionately prevalent among racial and ethnic minorities
    •  42 percent of African American adults and 36 percent of Hispanic adults have untreated dental disease, compared to 22 percent of Caucasians
  • Among adults with incomes below the federal poverty line, 42 percent have tooth decay—that’s three times more than adults with incomes above 400 percent of the federal poverty line.
  • Rural areas experience higher rates of dental disease and tooth loss with lower preventive utilization rates.
  • Barriers such as cost and fear of discrimination mean just 10 percent of the surveyed LGBT population say they have regular dental visits.

With much progress still to be made, the four branches of the DentaQuest enterprise—benefits administration, philanthropy, science, and care delivery—will work in tandem to reduce inequities in the communities we serves across the country. This work not only enables us to get closer to achieving oral health for all, but also will drive our work with others.

Ultimately, our participation in this program steps up our ability to address health equity collaboratively with our partners – from states and clients to providers and patients.


Monday, May 8, 2017

DentaQuest Institute Releases New Report on Interprofessional Care in Rural Communities

New white paper delves into the role of interprofessional networks to coordinate person-centered care and improve oral health

DentaQuest Institute, in collaboration with the South Carolina Office of Rural Health, the Medical University of South Carolina, the Colorado Rural Health Center, and the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, just released a new white paper , MORE Care: Narrowing the Rural Interprofessional Oral Health Care Gap. The report highlights the importance of interprofessional oral health networks in achieving person-centered care and population health improvement. By producing coordinated care pathways between dental medicine and primary and behavioral health, interprofessional oral health networks have the potential to improve patient outcomes, increase patient and provider satisfaction, and reduce the cost of providing and receiving care.

The report is the result of two years of collective findings from the Medical Oral Expanded Care (MORE Care) Initiative involving twenty-one Rural Health Clinics and fifteen rural dental care partners located in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. MORE Care partners provide insight into the main factors affecting the initiation of interprofessional oral health practice observed during the early phases of MORE Care.

The white paper, and a soon-to-be-released implementation guide, offer insight into the needs of Rural Health Clinics and rural dental care teams as they undertook the creation of interprofessional oral health networks (IPOHNs). In addition to creating interprofessional oral health networks, the purpose of MORE Care is to serve as a vehicle for adopting system change in the rural communities.

For more information on how dental programs serving rural communities can leverage MORE Care, contact Rebekah Mathews, director of transformation at rebekah.mathews@improvingoralhealth.com.


Monday, May 1, 2017

Healthy Vision Month reminds us to make our eyes a priority

May is Healthy Vision Month. With that in mind, we at eyeQuest encourage everyone to make eye health a priority and take steps to protect vision for a lifetime.

Vision might change as we get older, but vision loss is not a normal part of aging. Common eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration threaten millions of Americans, potentially robbing them of vision, mobility, and independence.

New technologies are making a difference, but early diagnosis, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care are essential to preventing irreversible vision loss.

Early stages of common eye diseases typically have no symptoms and can only be detected through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. If you are over 40, a dilated eye exam is recommended yearly, especially if you are at higher risk for eye disease.

As an example, Glaucoma, which causes “silent” damage to the optic nerve, is more common in people with certain risk factors such as African-Americans ages 40 and older; everyone ages 60 and older, especially Latin Americans; and people with a family history of the disease.

The number one cause of permanent loss of vision in people under age 60 is diabetic retinopathy. Also for people over 60, the risk for age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) rises significantly.
 
All of these conditions progress without any symptoms at all. The good news is that with early detection through regular eye exams, they are all manageable.  Vision loss is mostly preventable if treatment is started before the damage is done.

Recent clinical trials sponsored by the National Eye Institute have shown great progress in the prevention of AMRD-related vision loss. The latest study results (known as AREDS) determined that people at high risk of developing AMRD could lower their risk by about 25 percent by taking vitamins with certain antioxidants and minerals –  another reason to eat your spinach and other green leafy vegetables.

So, do your older self a favor and think about how important your vision is during healthy vision month. If it has been more than a year since your last eye exam, schedule an appointment and then ask your eye doctor about any of your risk factors. Awareness and regular eye care can make a difference. Much like regular dental care!  

Make healthy vision last a lifetime. During Healthy Vision Month, encourage friends and family to make eye health a priority. For more information about keeping eyes healthy, visit https://www.nei.nih.gov/hvm/ and download a healthy vision month toolkit.

Guest post from eyeQuest Vision Director Vidya Baliga

Monday, April 17, 2017

National Minority Health Month: A Thank You to Community Health Promoters

During National Minority Health Month, we’re calling attention to barriers many people must overcome to enjoy their best health, and the advocates who help them. 

One of our jobs as a leading health care organization is to help people understand what they need to do to stay healthy – and that starts with literacy.

Literacy skills are one of the strongest predictors of oral health status – stronger than age, income, employment status, education level, or racial/ethnic group.  It is estimated that at least a third of adults in the United States have limited health literacy and nearly half of all American adults - 90 million people - have difficulty understanding and using health information. Because of that, folks delay taking action, and before long, small problems become big health issues.  

Community health workers are stepping in to help people understand and navigate our health care system. It’s a very personal approach to health education. DentaQuest’s outreach team spends a lot of time in the community talking to people about oral health and explaining dental benefits and how to use them. National Minority Health Month gives us an opportunity to talk about the importance of community health workers — promotores*, or  outreach specialists. These committed team members are doing incredible work to bridge health equity across communities.

Community outreach specialists are hyper grassroots, frontline public health translators. Using the strength of their personality; personal contacts; trust; and an intimate understanding of the community’s strengths, needs and social networks, they tackle sensitive health topics, correct misinformation, and connect people with quality care.  In some parts of the United States, our certified promotores are at work in rural and urban areas at clinics, churches, workplaces, schools, and even around agricultural fields.

These outreach specialists are very important to achieving our goal of ending dental disease in children. An estimated 17 million low income children in the United States go without oral health care each year—that’s about one out of every five children. 

Outreach workers help figure out why that happens. It might be because the families don’t know they should seek dental care for the children. It could be because the caregivers don’t know where to find a dentist. And it could be that the parents simply fear going to the dentist and share that fear with their kids. Outreach workers calm fears, educate and guide caregivers, and help them navigate the complexities of our health care system. They introduce families to preventive services, and even check back to be sure treatments that are initiated get completed.

And it’s not just for children. Regular screenings and preventive education for people of all ages reduce poor health outcomes and health expenditures. Outreach specialists help adults understand systemic health – what smoking does to the body or how managing mouth disease helps control diabetes and heart disease, for instance. It’s the trusting relationship with the community that enables outreach specialists to cross the cultural divide and get people involved in disease prevention and wellness. This is a critical role, especially where language, transportation and cultural responses are barriers to health.

National Minority Health Month - with this year's theme of health equity - is an opportunity to acknowledge the dedicated work of our promotores / outreach specialists and to give thanks for their genuine servicio de corazon (service from the heart).

Thank you for all you do to advance health equity nationwide!


*Promotores de salud, also known as promotoras, is Spanish for “community health worker.” 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Prioritizing Our Seniors: Why Offering Medicare Dental Coverage Matters

More than 46 million seniors lack dental coverage, according to a 2015 report on enrollment from the National Association of Dental Plans (NADP) and Delta Dental Plans Association (DDPA). And that number is only expected to rise with our burgeoning population of older adults.

In order to help more seniors get covered, U.S. federal policy must more effectively address the oral health needs of this population.


Recently, there have been several big news stories about the barriers 70 percent of seniors face to receive quality oral health care.

One major contributor is that dental care is not covered under Medicare. Boston College researchers found that the percentage of people with dental coverage declines by more than half in the 10 years after reaching retirement age -- from 62 percent at age 65 to 26 percent at 75. Why? According to CBS News, the study suggests the following...

The reason: When most workers retire, they lose the dental coverage provided by their employer or union. But doesn’t Medicare, which starts at age 65, step in and pick up the slack? Not on your canines, “a fact that a majority of baby boomers are unaware of…”

According to a recent survey of 2,000 registered U.S. voters conducted by DentaQuest via Morning Consult, this is not a partisan issue. In fact, 83 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of Democrats responded that dental coverage should be included in Medicare.

Without coverage, seniors face significant out-of-pocket costs to obtain appropriate oral health care, as they are more likely to need the most costly procedures, such as crowns, implants, or false teeth as they age. Seniors are also more likely to have chronic conditions that may complicate or exacerbate these oral health issues.

Because traditional Medicare does not provide dental coverage, Medicare Advantage plans are taking a lead in providing oral health coverage for seniors. In fact, DentaQuest partners with many of these plans because they recognize the importance of oral health to the overall health of older adults. However, these benefits are optional or supplemental and not all seniors can afford to pay out of pocket for this coverage.   

More affordable solutions are necessary to bridge this gap for our seniors.


With all of the discussion surrounding changes to the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, policies to expand dental coverage have largely gone overlooked. However, DentaQuest has taken steps to begin addressing this gap.

A few weeks ago, the DentaQuest Foundation announced a $668,000 grant to Oral Health America to expand the Wisdom Tooth Project and increase advocacy for publicly funded dental coverage for seniors. This project focuses on five strategies including education for seniors and professionals and pilot demonstration projects to combat barriers to care. The DentaQuest Foundation has been pivotal in supporting Oral Health America’s efforts for older adult oral health since 2010.

As health care prepares to undergo substantial changes, industry stakeholders may support different proposals but our goal should remain the same. We echo AHIP’s comments that the industry must bond together “to ensure every American has access to affordable coverage and quality care so they can achieve their best health.”

Expanding access to health care, including oral health care, is a foundational pillar to achieve this goal.

We cannot leave our seniors behind.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Building Health Literacy with Read Across America



If you’ve ever read a book with a child, you know the feeling of joy that comes from the experience, as well as how fundamental literacy is for people of any age.


So it is a source of pride that DentaQuest staff from coast to coast are joining teachers, celebrities, community members and parents in getting kids excited about reading through the National Education Association's (NEA's) Read Across America Campaign, a celebration of reading timed with the birthday of Dr. Seuss.


As health industry professionals, we have a responsibility to educate consumers so they can be active advocates for their own health. In its health literacy fact sheetthe CDC says 9 out of 10 adults struggle to understand and use health information, especially when it is unfamiliar, complex or jargon-filled. In fact, low literacy contributes to poor health outcomes, higher rates of hospital utilization, and less frequent use of preventive services, in addition to overall higher health care costs.


According to the National Center for Education Statistics, since 1993 just 53 to 58 percent of children ages 3 to 5 years read or were read to on a daily basis.


Simply reading daily with a child is important.

  • Children who are read to at home have a higher success rate in school. 
  • Children who read frequently develop stronger reading skills. 

As part of this year’s NEA campaign, our staff is visiting schools in:
  • Columbia, S.C.; 
  • Locust Hill and Richmond, Va.; 
  • Lincoln, Neb.; 
  • Milwaukee and Mequon, Wisc.; 
  • Austin and Red Rock, Texas; 
  • Doral, Fla.; 
  • Snoqualmie, Wa.; 
  • Anniston, Ala.; and 
  • the Greater Boston area. 

We are reading one of three fun books --Throw Your Tooth on the Roof by Selby B. Beeler, The Tooth Book by Edward Miller, and Open Wide by Laurie Keller. The school’s library will also get the book to keep for future reading.



Staff who have already visited classrooms said they felt like rock stars and oral health ambassadors. The children loved the facts we shared about their teeth, including how they should take care of their own teeth and gums.


Dental disease is the most common chronic childhood disease – and it is preventable. Introducing children to fun facts about their mouths, teeth and gums through the books we brought for Read Across America is a strong step in building the health literacy skills and disease prevention awareness that will empower this next generation of consumers to be health-knowledgeable adults.


Efforts like these will go a long way to helping us achieve our vision of being a nation where children can grow up free of dental disease.