Many times in public health, ideas arise on ways to make an impact on dental issues. These ideas may be created when brainstorming as a local dental hygiene component, or they may be initiated by a dental hygienist’s involvement in his or her children’s school or parent’s health situation, or maybe while reading a newspaper article. Although great ideas arise, it is often difficult to find out how to effectively solve the issues with just ideas; in other words, it may be easy to see the dental health problem - e.g., children with huge carious lesions or the elderly in nursing facilities with virtually no dental care - but it is much more complicated to determine how to truly solve these issues.
Finding a solution involves much more than just a dental hygienist. It involves working with other health-care providers, parents, children, teachers, health-care administrators, maybe even elected officials. It involves making changes in the way dental care is delivered. It involves making a concerted effort for a population, not just an individual patient, all in a collaborative manner.
One fact I know is that there are many hygienists who see the need and want to figure out the solution. I know this because I receive phone calls and e-mails from them all the time. And what is their main question? They need information. They need facts on the dental needs of a certain population; they need help organizing their ideas. In fact, what they really need is a toolkit that can be customized to their population’s individual needs. Guess what? It’s already out there. Our government has actually created a document/Web site for dental hygienists and others to use to help find solutions to the very real oral health needs we see daily.
But first a little background ... The Healthy People Initiative is a statistical description of the health of the United States, a textbook on current public health priorities, and a national strategic plan for improving health. Healthy People 2000: National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives, released in 1990, identified health improvement goals and objectives to be reached by the year 2000. The Healthy People 2010 initiative continues in this tradition as an instrument to improve health for the first decade of the 21st century. Healthy People is grounded in science, developed through public consensus, and designed to measure progress. Healthy People 2010 is designed to achieve these goals:
• Goal 1 Help individuals of all ages increase life expectancy and improve their quality of life.
• Goal 2 Eliminate health disparities among different segments of the population.
The Healthy People 2010 objectives for oral health are areas in which dental hygienists are educated and skilled in providing services and making a difference.
The purpose of the Healthy People Toolkit is to provide guidance, technical tools, and resources to help states, territories, tribes, and communities develop and implement successful oral health components of Healthy People 2010 plans as well as other oral health plans. These plans are useful for:
1) Promoting, implementing, and tracking oral health objectives
2) Educating the public and policymakers about oral health needs and disparities
3) Leveraging resources for oral health-related programs and activities
The suggested processes, tools, and resources in the Healthy People Toolkit can help build an effective planning initiative that reflects your area’s unique needs, resources, and buy-in from a broad constituency. The Resources section at the end of each chapter contains references, lists of information, Web sites that will help you choose appropriate strategies and contact others for advice, and examples from states, territories, tribes, and communities.
Much of this information and documents related to Healthy People 2010 can be accessed at the Healthy People Web site at www.healthypeople.gov/Publications/.
So go ahead and give it a try. Use it to make a difference in your community!