Earlier this month, Oral Heath America (OHA) brought Board Members, Oral Health Advocates and staff to Capitol Hill for its annual Advocacy Week event to meet with members of Congress and recognize leaders who have worked toward oral health equity in the public sphere.
Advocacy Week is a part of OHA’s annual Fall for Smiles campaign, which strives to educate Americans every September and October about the importance of maintaining a healthy mouth and is a component of OHA’s year-long Campaign for Oral Health Equity. This year’s theme, Open Your Mouth: Oral Health is Health!, seeks to empower health advocates to raise awareness of the importance of oral health as a key factor of overall health and wellness.
Thanks to the generosity of 3M, GSK, Dental Trade Alliance and Midmark, OHA offered scholarships to 20 Oral Health Advocates. Forty-five participants asked legislators and their staff to support OHA’s national oral health agenda by providing educational information and sharing personal stories and experiences. In total, Oral Health Advocates reached 84 congressional offices. Oral Health America’s 2018 Policy Priorities include funding for HRSA Oral Health Training Programs, filling the open Chief Dental Officer position at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the RAISE Family Caregivers Act and support for the Dental Health Act of 2018. Advocates also emphasized the importance of oral health for older Americans citing OHA’s A State of Decay. Vol. VI, a biannual state-by-state report that analyzes the oral health of older Americans across the United States.
At the Capitol Hill Reception, sponsored by Oral Healthcare Can’t Wait, an initiative of Dental Trade Alliance and the DentaQuest Foundation, OHA honored Dr. Caswell Evans with the 2018 Marvin Goldstein Outstanding Public Service Award, celebrating individuals whose leadership in improving public health in the U.S. has broken new ground and created a changed environment. Dr. Evans has a distinguished record in the field of public health including his directorship of the first Surgeon General’s report on oral health and leadership in establishing service learning externships at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry.
OHA also recognized Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID) as the Legislative Honoree for his accomplished work in dentistry and most recent role in leading the House passage of the Action for Dental Health Act of 2018 to bolster utilization of existing resources to improve early diagnosis, intervention and prevention treatments. His Senior Legislative Assistant, James Neill, accepted the award on his behalf.
“Twenty years after the first Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health, the effort to examine an oral health benefit in Medicare is embraced not only by many corners or the oral health community, but by health policy groups, aging organizations and increasingly by legislators,” said Beth Truett, President & CEO of Oral Health America. “There is still work to be done to elevate this issue, but the recent release of our White Paper, An Oral Health Benefit in Medicare Part B: It’s Time to Include Oral Health in Health Care is an important step in the collaborative effort to ‘open our mouths’ and address oral health’s impact on overall health.”
In addition to the legislative visits and the Capitol Hill Reception, the week included a Twitter Chat among national advocacy organizations like Children’s Dental Health Project and Families USA as well as an Instagram takeover where past OHA Fellows and Interns answered the question, “How do you advocate for oral health equity?” The week concluded with a full recap of all activities by Oral Health Advocate and OHA Associate Board member Jennifer Hasch.
Fall for Smiles is generously sponsored by 3M, Oral Healthcare Can’t Wait, an initiative of Dental Trade Alliance, Crosstex Dentapure, GSK, DentaQuest Foundation, Hu-Friedy, Midmark and National Dental Association (NDA).
ABOUT ORAL HEALTH AMERICA (OHA)
Oral Health America’s mission is to change lives by connecting communities with resources to drive access to care, increase health literacy and advocate for policies that improve overall health through better oral health for all Americans, especially those most vulnerable. Through Smiles Across America®, which serves 501,000 children annually, the Wisdom Tooth Project®, which reaches tens of thousands of older adults, and the Campaign for Oral Health Equity, which prioritize oral health alongside other chronic diseases, OHA helps Americans of all ages to have a healthy mouth and to understand the importance of oral health for overall health. For more information about Oral Health America, please visit oralhealthamerica.org.