BY CHRISTINE NATHE, RDH, MS
Not too long ago, we spotlighted Dr. Marcia Brand, the former deputy administrator of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). She recently spoke at the American Dental Education Association's Program Director's Conference about her latest initiative. This initiative truly integrates oral health into existing health systems in a unique yet eloquent and effective manner. This initiative, titled the National Interprofessional Initiative on Oral Health (NIIOH), is composed of a consortium of funders and health professionals whose vision is to eradicate dental disease.
The overall direction is to change health systems procedures so that there is focus on implementing preventive and educational dental services at primary care visits. This includes disciplines such as family medicine, pediatrics, nursing, physician assistants, ob/gyn, and internal medicine.
The NIIOH was developed from previous oral health and primary care symposiums. At these meetings, interprofessional dialogue was facilitated among primary care clinicians, dentists, and funders. One of the results was the development of an interprofessional national curriculum for primary care providers on oral health, The Smiles for Life (www.smilesforlifeoralhealth.org) curriculum. This was funded by DentaQuest Foundation, Washington Dental Service Foundation, and Connecticut Health Foundation.
The mission of the NIIOH is to engage primary care clinicians to be:
• Alert to their patients' oral health needs
• Ready and willing to deliver oral health preventive services to patients of all ages
• Effective at partnering with dental specialists
• Able to learn from, with, and about one another
A recently published white paper, Oral Health: An Essential Component of Primary Care (http://www.niioh.org/sites/default/files/Oral_Health_white_paper_final.pdf) discusses the integration of preventive oral health care into routine medical care. A subsequent publication (http://www.niioh.org/sites/default/files/Oral_Health_white_paper_case_examples.pdf) is particularly compelling, presenting case examples in which primary oral health care and education are integrated into routine primary care appointments, and the subsequent decrease in disease data is presented.
These examples spotlight how effective simple oral health services such as fluoride varnish and education can be during a primary care visit. They also showcase another method of increasing access to care.
The NIIOH is an excellent example of how collaboration can work to improve oral health outcomes while integrating oral health into existing health systems. Initiatives such as these should be promoted by dental hygienists to help improve the health of the public. RDH
1. National Interprofessional Initiative on Oral Health accessed from http://www.niioh.org on June 19, 2105.
CHRISTINE NATHE, RDH, MS, is director at the University of New Mexico, Division of Dental Hygiene, in Albuquerque, N.M. She is also the author of "Dental Public Health Research" (www.pearsonhighered.com/educator), which is in its third edition with Pearson. She can be reached at [email protected] or (505) 272-8147.