How is ADHA involvedin public health?

Dec. 1, 2008
In the October 2008 issue of RDH, I spotlighted Diann Bomkamp, the ADHA president.

by Christine Nathe, RDH, MS

In the October 2008 issue of RDH, I spotlighted Diann Bomkamp, the ADHA president. I thought I would follow up with updated information on what specifically ADHA is doing nationally to reach out to dental public health.

Professional statements

One way that a professional organization can represent its profession is to publish position statements on issues pertinent to the profession's expertise. Recently, the ADHA Board of Trustees formally adopted a health reform statement. The statement frames the ADHA position on access to and delivery of oral health care services in the context of health care reform. The health reform statement addresses the following points:

  1. Oral health is integral to total health — an individual cannot achieve optimal health if oral health is neglected.
  2. Most dental disease can be avoided with proper preventive care.
  3. The cost of preventive oral health care is significantly less than the cost of treating oral disease.
  4. The oral health care workforce is evolving and must be expanded to meet increasing patient needs.

Collaboration with organizations

Another way that a professional organization can represent its profession is by collaborating with other organizations to meet shared goals. In this aspect, ADHA has been involved in collaborative efforts with several public health associations.

ADHA attended, along with many other oral health stakeholders, a partners meeting hosted by the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors (ASTDD) in December 2007. The meeting was an opportunity for many oral health care stakeholders to convene and discuss objectives that all are committed to pursuing. Moreover, for the second year in a row, ADHA sponsored a member to attend ASTDD's National Oral Health Leadership Institute, which develops leadership and critical thinking skills in dental public health professionals who work directly with state and local programs.

ADHA once again helped plan and sponsor the National Oral Health Conference in Miami in April 2008. The conference was an opportunity for then–ADHA President Jean Connor, RDH, to present as part of a panel on access to care issues. NOHC was also a time for ADHA to host dental hygienists at a breakfast reception, which was an opportunity for staff and leadership to field questions from attendees. It also allowed attendees to network with one another.

In addition, ADHA was invited to present at the Indian Health Service (IHS) National Dental Hygiene Update in Portland in May 2008. The association was fortunate to have a forum for dental hygienists and some dental hygiene students in IHS with information about ongoing ADHA efforts. ADHA staff and leadership have talked with IHS personnel at the national level about the ADHP, and is looking forward to continuing communication with dental hygienists in IHS interested in bringing the new provider model to fruition. ADHA staff and current president Diann Bomkamp, RDH, BSDH, attended the meeting.

The American Association of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) hosted a stakeholder meeting to establish professional partnerships and identify collaborative opportunities in the organization's recently established Head Start Dental Home Initiative. An ADHA liaison attended the meeting to gather information to promote the role dental hygienists play in Head Start programs. Progress on the AAPD Head Start Initiative by ADHA is ongoing.

Collaboration with government

ADHA has also been involved with government entities. One of these collaborations includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which hosted a meeting in July in Atlanta to explore the possibility of developing low–fluoride toothpaste. The association was represented at the meeting by the chair of the Council on Public Health, as well as the association's public health consultant. ADHA was pleased to be among the stakeholders invited to the meeting.

The Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) Perinatal Oral Health Committee hosted a meeting to discuss perinatal health care issues from the oral health perspective. The meeting was a follow–up to a similar one held in 2006. The ADHA president represented the association at the meeting, which brought together a host of oral health stakeholders. Work on this issue with MCHB and other attendees will be ongoing.

In addition, the MCHB hosted a meeting in October in Washington D.C. to bring oral health stakeholders together for a discussion about the dental home. The meeting was a forum to promote their vision of the dental home and note ways in which the oral health care community can work collectively to better facilitate the dental home. ADHA was represented at the meeting by a former trustee.

Community service

Promoting community efforts and preparing dental hygienists to serve the community is another important aspect of a profession. The ADHA kicked off the Center for Lifelong Learning at the Annual Session with Healthy Smile Community Service Day. The University of New Mexico Dental Hygiene Program hosted the event, which provided a variety of free dental services to preschool children, including cleanings and exams, sealants, and patient education.

Also at the annual session was the Advocacy–Public Health Workshop. This year's workshop featured a panel discussion on collaborative practice in New Mexico. The panel, consisting of a collaborative practice dental hygienist, the deputy director from the New Mexico Alliance for School–Based Health Care, and a representative from Delta Dental of New Mexico, discussed collaborative practice from the provider, consumer, and payer perspectives.

Advancement of the profession

Another important role of a professional organization is to work diligently to advance the science, service, and practice of the profession. ADHA continually strives to advance the profession by providing professional expertise to the accreditation, examination, and licensure processes. In addition, the ADHA Institute of Oral Health supports research by dental hygienists for dental hygiene. Most recently, ADHA has been the driving force behind initiating a new dental hygiene provider — the Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner (ADHP).

The ADHA is busy working for dental hygienists so that they may provide quality, comprehensive dental hygiene care to the public. By collaborating with others and being the voice for our profession, ADHA is paving the way for dental hygienists to make a difference. Ultimately, the goal of most professions is the same as ours — to serve society in the best way possible!

Author's note: For more info on the Health Reform statement see–health_reform.htm.

About the Author

Christine Nathe, RDH, MS, is a professor and graduate program director at the University of New Mexico, Division of Dental Hygiene, in Albuquerque. She is also the author of "Dental Public Health" (, which is in its second edition with Prentice Hall. She can be reached at [email protected] or (505) 272–8147.