Spirit of collaboration

Quite a few organizations strive to improve the public’s health. As a preventive science, it is imperative that dental hygiene focus on...

by Christine Nathe, RDH, MS

Quite a few organizations strive to improve the public’s health. As a preventive science, it is imperative that dental hygiene focus on collaborating with other disciplines that share similar missions.

Founded in 1937, the American Association of Public Health Dentistry (AAPHD) provides a focus for meeting the challenge to improve oral health. AAPHD membership is open to all individuals concerned with improving the oral health of the public, which means this organization includes a multidisciplinary membership which includes dental hygienists.

Stated eloquently on its website (http://www.aaphd.org): AAPHD’s broad base of membership provides a fertile environment and numerous opportunities for the exchange of ideas and experiences. During the past decade, many enthusiastic persons have joined AAPHD, increasing its influence and effectiveness. Improvements in the oral health of the U.S. population have been much heralded in recent years. However, these gains have eluded many of the most vulnerable people - those for whom public health personnel often have special concern - in the U.S. and other countries. For such individuals, living with oral pain and disfigurement means a lack of health that interferes with the opportunity to learn and obtain meaningful employment.

Specifically, the AAPHD is committed to:

  • Promotion of effective efforts in disease prevention, health promotion and service delivery
  • Education of the public, health professionals and decision-makers regarding the importance of oral health to total well-being
  • Expansion of the knowledge base of dental public health and fostering competency in its practice

These commitment goals of improving the public’s total health are echoed in the mission of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA). The ADHA mission is to advance the art and science of dental hygiene by ensuring access to quality oral health care, increasing awareness of the cost-effective benefits of prevention, promoting the highest standards of dental hygiene education, licensure, practice and research and representing and promoting the interests of dental hygienists.

Diane Brunson, RDH, MPH, a member of the AAPHD Executive Council feels that the missions of ADHA and AAPHD are very closely aligned, and “improving the oral health of the public” is what dental hygiene is about in the first place. This is is why she supports both organizations, not only through membership but also serving on committees.

The ADHA has an ongoing collaboration with this organization as both organizations strive to promote oral health efforts. The AAPHD in conjunction with the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors (ASTDD), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sponsor the National Oral Health Conference. This is an excellent meeting for those dental hygienists in public health or those wishing to pursue public health careers. It provides networking and education in public health. For more information on this conference please see: http://www.nationaloralhealthconference.com/

Christine Nathe, RDH, MS, is a professor and graduate program director at the University of New Mexico, Division of Dental Hygiene, in Albuquerque, N.M. She is also the author of “Dental Public Health,” (www.prenhall.com/nathe), which is in its second edition with Prentice Hall. She can be reached at cnathe@salud.unm.edu or (505) 272-8147.

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