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!

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.