Capitol Hill event focuses on the growing disparities for Americans and oral health

Sept. 18, 2014
Oral Health American hosts a Capitol Hill event focused on the growing dental health disparities in lower income families in the United States.
Dozens of oral health leaders gathered on Capitol Hill Wednesday to shine a light on the disparities that exist when it comes to oral healthcare in the United States. Hosted by Oral Health America (OHA) and Oral Healthcare Can’t Wait, an initiative of the Dental Trade Alliance, “Communities Matter: Does Your Neighborhood Determine Your Oral Health” addressed disparities in dental care that affect lower-income communities across the country. The event also honored Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) for his legislative work supporting oral health and Dr. Louis Wade Sullivan, who received the Marvin Goldstein Outstanding Public Service Award for his dedication to improving public health both during his term as Secretary of Health and Human Services and beyond.

“Improving the oral health of Americans is an essential part of improving the overall health of our citizens. This is an ongoing challenge for us all, especially those who are disadvantaged and who live in underserved communities,” said Dr. Louis Wade Sullivan, chairman for the Sullivan Alliance. “I commend Oral Health America for its sustained leadership in these efforts.”

The Capitol Hill event is part of OHA’s Fall for Smiles campaign, which educates Americans every September and October about the importance of maintaining a healthy mouth through good oral health habits. A recent survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of OHA shows those with a household income of under $50,000, including many who live in urban areas and young adults (including students), are more likely to skip or delay a dental visit, with 74% of those surveyed delaying care for financial reasons or due to lack of insurance coverage. In light of these findings, the event urged members of Congress to prioritize policies that impact overall health through improved oral health. "We know that millions of Americans don't have access to good oral healthcare," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) during the event. "And when you look at the numbers, they're troubling. Forty-five million people live in one of the professional shortage areas in America. There's more to do, more professionals, more services and better ways to link people up to the care they need." Other speakers included John Tobin, Director of US Business at 3M ESPE, Ariel Gonzalez, Director of Federal Health and Family Advocacy for AARP and Caswell Evans, DDS, MPH, Associate Dean for Prevention and Public Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago and OHA board member.

Prior to the event, OHA’s staff and board of directors met with more than 50 members of the Senate and Congress, asking them to support the CHIP Extension Act of 2014 with a continued guaranteed dental benefit for children, the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2014 and to prioritize oral health through support for federal programs that provide preventative dental care, dental education assistance and dental training.

For more information vist OHA's Fall for Smiles.

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