Advocating for Your School Dental Program

To ensure access to good oral health — dental, medical, and other professionals need to work together.

Advocacy can make a significant difference in ensuring that everyone has access to coverage, care, and improved health.  Are you starting a new school dental program?  You’ll need advocates and champions to promote the program to the school administration, school staff, parents, students, and community dental providers.  Are you advocating for higher reimbursement rates for dental services or changes to dental professionals’ practice locations?  You’ll need champions to help change policies in your state, and an information campaign to increase awareness of your issue.  For both new and established school-based dental programs, you might collect student stories about their struggles with dental pain and school attendance, or difficulty getting to dental appointments.   Students that have an SBHC in their school understand the value and convenience of services in their school, and with their parents, can be effective advocates for adding dental services to school-based programs.  All of these activities require an advocacy strategy and tools to help you succeed. The resources below will help inform your advocacy activities.

https://www.communitycatalyst.org/initiatives-and-issues/initiatives/dental-access-project/dental-access-project   The Dental Access Project supports community-led efforts to identify and implement community-led, consumer-based policy solutions; raise awareness of the oral health crisis; engage consumers in the policy debate regarding unmet oral health needs; and educate policymakers, dentists, educational institutions and community members about innovative solutions to increase access to oral health care

http://www.youthempoweredsolutions.org/new-yes-toolkit-paving-the-way-to-access/  The Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!) released a youth empowerment toolkit focused on addressing health care disparities in the local community. The Paving the Way to Access Toolkit was designed by YES! youth and adult staff, based on grassroots work justifying the need for a school-based health center (SBHC) in their community. The toolkit helps build a compelling case for SBHCs and is adaptable for other advocacy efforts as well.

https://familiesusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Health_Policy_Toolkit.pdf  Advocacy can make a significant difference in ensuring that everyone has access to coverage, care, and improved health. You and your organization can play a vital role in educating public officials about issues important to health care consumers. The goal of this toolkit is to help people new to advocacy. It will give you the knowledge and tactics you need to be an effective advocate.

http://frameworksinstitute.org/toolkits/dentaquest/  Reframing Oral Health: A Communications Toolkit for Advancing Oral Health Reform (includes recommendations for framing the issues and how to apply them, communication tools for oral health advocates, and information on the basics of how cultural models influence public understanding to communicate productively.

http://frameworksinstitute.org/toolkits/dentaquest/communications-tools.html  This section of the toolkit includes sample communications materials that advocates can use to help the public understand oral health and build support for solutions.

http://frameworksinstitute.org/toolkits/dentaquest/assets/pdf/storytelling_for_social_change.pdf  This tool shows advocates how to tell stories that “widen the lens” beyond individuals and show the systemic causes and consequences of poor oral health.

http://frameworksinstitute.org/toolkits/dentaquest/assets/pdf/understanding_public_thinking_about_oral_health.pdf  The Swamp of Oral Health – creating more effective messages that engage people in productive conversations.