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Addressing Equity in Your School Dental Program

Health equity exists when all people have the resources they need to lead happy, productive, healthy, and meaningful lives. These resources will be different depending on the person and community and must address the structural and systemic barriers that contribute to health inequities.  Significant disparities exist in oral health across race and ethnicity, gender, geography, education level, and income. Oral health outcomes are often worse among people of color, people who live in more rural areas, and people experiencing poverty. As you design your dental program, making decisions through an equity lens could influence the range of diverse stakeholders that are engaged, hiring practices and staff team composition, distribution of resources, leadership opportunities, and decision-making protocols. Your dental program can make significant and positive changes to the oral health of the youth in your school or district – changes that can impact their health for years to come. The following resources can help increase your understanding of health equity:

http://www.oralhealth.network/page/about-the-network  How to Apply a Health Equity and Social Justice Lens. This guidance provides several products developed as a resource to individuals and organizations working on oral health issues, including definitions, context, and guiding principles.

https://www.cthealth.org/publication/dental-sealants: a Connecticut Health Foundation brief highlights why greater dental access reduces health inequities and boosts sealant use among children in the Medicaid program.

https://reospartners.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/AConversationGuideforHealthEquity_Feb2017.pdf The guide provides a tool that anyone can use to convene, host, and facilitate a conversation with members of their community on how to collaborate and act to achieve health equity.

https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2016/05/12/dental-health-is-worse-in-communities-of-color  Dental Health is Worse in Communities of Color:  Four Key Disparities Show how These Populations are Vulnerable.

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db307.htm  Data from 2015 and 2016 report demonstrates the relationship between poverty and race on total dental caries by age. (can include the pdf link)

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/buoh-2016-11.pdf  Oral health literacy is the degree to which a person can receive, evaluate, understand, and use oral health information and services, helping them to make the right decisions about health. The article shares strategies to improve literacy in Head Start and offers up a healthy snack recipe. The site offers additional links to help with literacy and culturally responsive practices.

https://familiesusa.org/our-work/the-center-on-health-equity-action-for-system-transformation/   The center is the only national entity exclusively dedicated to the development and advancement of patient-centered health system transformation policies designed to reduce racial, ethnic, and geographic inequities. They focus on advancing equity while improving outcomes, increasing value, and lowering costs.

http://www.oralhealth.network/p/cm/ld/fid=1031:  Because oral health is essential to overall health and wellbeing, the Oral Health Progress and Equity Network (OPEN) has organized across the country to ensure healthier outcomes for everyone. OPEN is a network of individuals and organizations committed to social justice and health equity.  We catalyzed a network to take on America’s oral health challenges so that everyone has an equitable chance to thrive. OPEN offers resources on Oral Health and Social Justice, Oral Health and Overall Health, and a set of goals that includes delivering dental services in the nation’s schools.