The committee convened for its inaugural meeting on March 31 to get underway the study entitled An Oral Health Initiative. The committee is charged with exploring ways to increase public awareness of the importance of oral health and its relationship to optimal physical health.
ADHA Executive Director Ann Battrell, MSDH, presented to the committee about the value ADHA sees in looking at ways in which a national message could be developed and generated to highlight the importance of oral health. She also highlighted the role that dental hygienists play in delivering oral health care services and educating patience about oral health.
Battrell noted, “Even today, the oral health message is lost on many. The impact of oral health on total health and the effectiveness of prevention need to be messaged more clearly and effectively to the public through a variety of communication vehicles, including social networking. We need to do a much better job partnering with different groups and interested stakeholders to get our message out to the public.”
ADHA presented on a panel that included representatives from the American Dental Association, the Academy of General Dentistry, and the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry. ADHA President Lynn Ramer, LDH, remarked, “It is significant that ADHA has been asked to offer the perspective of the dental hygiene profession as this study committee begins its work. The studies the IOM is conducting draw much needed attention to oral health and could result in some actionable recommendations that ADHA and other stakeholders can work collaboratively to pursue.”
The 15 member committee carrying out An Oral Health Initiative is comprised of dentists, dental hygienists, nurses, physicians, experts in epidemiology and heath promotion, and patient advocates, among others. Battrell commended the diversity of the committee, stating, “The IOM has brought together a group of individuals with the experience and depth of knowledge to look at oral health literacy from a broad perspective. The study is strengthened by the inclusion of dentists and dental hygienists, but it is important to acknowledge that those with health care expertise are key stakeholders in helping increase the oral health literacy of Americans.”
The presentation comes just three weeks after ADHA presented at a meeting of a committee convened by the IOM to carry out the first of the two oral health studies. That study is entitled Oral Health Access to Services and will focus on assessing the strengths and weakness of the current oral health care system, particularly as it relates to access to care for underserved population.
Both the Access and Initiative study committees will convene during the next year and are expected to issue final reports with recommendations in mid-2011.
ADHA is the largest national organization representing the professional interests of more than 150,000 dental hygienists across the country. Dental hygienists are preventive oral health professionals, licensed in dental hygiene, who provide educational, clinical and therapeutic services that support total health through the promotion of optimal oral health. For more information about ADHA, dental hygiene or the link between oral health and general health, visit ADHA at http://www.adha.org.
Nick Olsen, ADHA 312/440-8927