Group Asks to Convene Stakeholders and Develop Action Plan to Promote Health Equity and Access
The Oral Health Pandemic Response Workgroup, a group of executives from across the dental landscape convened by CareQuest Institute for Oral Health, is urging health officials at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to prioritize oral health equity and access at the federal level.
The group sent letters to Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral (ADM) Rachel L. Levine, MD, and the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Micky Tripathi, PhD, MPP, asking to convene stakeholders and develop an action plan to promote equitable oral health policies and programs in its work.
The pandemic has shown that oral health inequities in our nation are profound. Access to oral health care remains out of reach for many low-income families and individuals, individuals with disabilities, communities of color, Tribal communities, and many rural communities.
A growing body of evidence also demonstrates that poor oral health can contribute to significant complications in systemic disease, such as diabetes and heart disease. In addition, studies have demonstrated that poor oral health contributes to increased overall medical costs.
“Oral health is essential health care, but across our country, people continue to experience deep disparities in access to services and health outcomes,” said Myechia Minter-Jordan, MD, MBA, president and CEO at CareQuest Institute for Oral Health. “As leaders from the health care industry, we are urging top federal health officials to prioritize oral health and we stand ready to collaborate on those efforts.”
In the letter to ADM Levine, the Oral Health Pandemic Response Workgroup calls for promoting oral health in the broader administrative, policymaking, legislative, and regulatory activities of HHS and the Biden Administration, including organizing an oral health summit or similar opportunity to get input from the oral health community on all health policy commissions, task forces, and health-related meetings hosted by the Administration.
In its letter to Dr. Tripathi, the group identifies the lack of medical-dental integration as a major barrier to oral health equity. Currently, data exchange between medical and dental providers is limited. Many dental practices are not yet using electronic dental records (EDR). Those that are using EDRs often encounter challenges with the lack of integration with other platforms, preventing streamlined communication between health care providers.
The letter goes on to ask for Dr. Tripathi to convene key stakeholders across medicine, dentistry, health information technology, and federal and state entities to explore opportunities to improve the nation’s oral health and overall health by ensuring that providers have the information they need to provide patient-centered, comprehensive, and integrated medical and dental care.
“Now is the time to bring Government officials and the health care community together to promote a more equitable health system that includes oral health,” said Cheryl Lee, DDS, president of the National Dental Association. “Our members look forward to working closely with HHS officials and key stakeholders to make oral health a priority across the board.”
The Oral Health Pandemic Response Workgroup looks forward to bringing oral health stakeholders to the table and working with ADM Levine and Dr. Tripathi to develop a plan of action for this important work.