The W. K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) has awarded a two-year, $400,000 grant to the American Dental Education Association Minority Dental Faculty Development (ADEA MDFD) program to address oral health disparities in vulnerable children and communities. The ADEA MDFD program’s approach is to bring together academic dental health professionals with partners in their communities to create a longer-term environment where regular dental care is attainable by all Americans.
A growing body of research indicates that minority patients are more likely to seek health care from a minority health care provider and, similarly, that practitioners from underserved areas often return to those areas to practice. The MDFD program seeks to develop new, more diverse generations of allied dental health professionals prepared to meet the systemic, unmet need for dental care across the United States. It emphasizes best practices in outreach, leadership development, academic mentorship, and increasing diversity in the academic pipeline.
The two year grants for MDFD III (2013-2015) are being awarded to: the University of Detroit Mercy, Georgia Regents University, Howard University (Year One: 2013-2014), and the University of Oklahoma and University of Minnesota (Year Two: 2014-2015).
“The diversity of dental and allied dental school faculty has a direct and positive effect on students and ultimately on patients in communities where oral health care may be more difficult to find,” says Jeanne C. Sinkford, DDS, PhD, ADEA Senior Scholar-in-Residence. “These Kellogg Foundation grants are absolutely critical to the ability of the dental health professions to do our part in getting oral health care to the people who need it most.”
As of October 2014, there are 4,968 areas in the country designated as Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas, where there are 5,000 or more people per dentist. This lack of access to oral health care affects Americans of all ages – adults with incomes below 100% of the federal poverty line are three times more likely to have untreated oral health care needs, and it is worse for children. In 2010, 4.2 million children aged 2–7 years were in need of dental care and yet did not receive it.
“When people go without oral health care, they risk discomfort, disease, and even death,” says Richard W. Valachovic, DMD, MPH, President and CEO of ADEA. “We know that we can start to close the gaps in access to oral health care with innovative approaches within education, and the Kellogg Foundation’s support is a significant step forward to making that a reality.”