ANCHORAGE, Alaska and CHICAGO--The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the American Dental Association recently issued the following statement:
"We are pleased to announce that the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the American Dental Association have agreed to settle our legal dispute. With this chapter behind us, we pledge to cooperatively advance our best efforts toward improving the oral health of Alaska Natives.
"This settlement is a starting point for a new era of cooperation between the dental profession and the ANTHC and its affiliated Tribal health organizations in exploring ways to improve access to dental care in rural Alaska. The issue that has divided us--our difference of opinion concerning the scope of practice of dental health aide therapists--will not deter our efforts to advocate for increased resources for dental care in rural Alaska.
"Our cooperative efforts will include:
Developing dental residency programs to create a "pipeline" of dentists who could help alleviate the backlog of care in remote areas; refining existing dental workforce models and developing new ones, including the ADA- developed community dental health coordinator, to expand the availability of oral health education, prevention and treatment throughout the Alaska Native community; coordinating the placement of volunteer dentists in Tribal communities; and conducting an impartial, longitudinal study to determine the effectiveness of various workforce models, including the DHAT and CDHC, in improving access to oral health and oral health care in Tribal areas.
"In addition, both the ANTHC and the ADA pledge to continue our vigorous advocacy in Washington to ensure that Congress funds the Indian Health Service sufficiently to fill the excessive number of vacant dental positions in its dental programs.
"Finally, the ADA will contribute to the ANTHC Foundation to support efforts to promote preventive oral health in remote Alaska. ADA and ANTHC agree that prevention is the key to long-term success in improving oral health for Alaska Natives."
For more information about the ADA, visit the Association's Web site at American Dental Association.