Over the past month, the NC Oral Health Collaborative has been hard at work organizing two separate events designed to address oral health disparities, access issues, and opportunities for improvement in North Carolina. Both events were a great success and helped the Collaborative move forward with their vision of achieving oral health for all North Carolinians.
First, on September 23, academics, providers, practitioners and community advocates gathered in Cary, NC for the 2016 NC Oral Health Summit. Overall, the Summit was designed for attendees to gain a common understanding of:
1.) current oral health disparities/inequities and access issues in NC,
2.) the work that has occurred thus far to address these problems in NC and,
3.) systems-level solutions that are proving successful in NC and other states.
Throughout the day, various speakers helped attendees better understand the breadth and scope of the problem and offered some inspiration for the road ahead. The keynote speaker, Dr. Bob Russell, encouraged dentists to move from being the ‘hands’ of the operation to the ‘head’ of the operation by exploring workforce models that could increase capacity for care.
The day concluded with the group diving into a draft version of the NC Oral Health Agenda. Through the collective wisdom of the group, the Collaborative was able to gather some great feedback that will help them strengthen and refine what is put forth as legislative priorities in 2017.
Then, on October 7, the Collaborative held an educational program in Raleigh, NC called Exploring Teledentistry as a Vehicle for Addressing Oral Health Access Issues. The program addressed major forces impacting the oral health industry and the potential use of telehealth to expand the reach of dental practices in North Carolina.
Attendees represented both private practice and public health, and varied from academic dentists and hygienists to funders to non-profit health care administrators. Additionally, continuing education credits were provided to interested participants through WakeAHEC.
The event began with Dr. Paul Glassman, a Professor of Dental Practice at the University of the Pacific San Francisco, describing the current state of the health care system and how its consistently poor health outcomes drive the need for new and innovative methods of delivering health care. He then described the Virtual Dental Home model, which has been used in California to increase access to oral health care for the underserved by providing services in the community where people live, work and play.
After that, various panelists shared their diverse experiences in the use of telehealth and discussed some of the opportunities and challenges to implementing teledentistry here in NC, which led to a great discussion.
Overall, hosting these gatherings was important to the work of the Collaborative as it seemed to draw several new stakeholders to the conversation of oral health disparities and improving access to care. Much gratitude to Zulayka Santiago, Rhonda Stephens, and Emily Bernson for all their hard work!