09:28 AM

DentaQuest Remains Voice for Oral Health Equity in Disparities Leadership Program

For the second straight year, DentaQuest is participating in the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Disparities Leadership Program. Last year, DentaQuest became the first oral health organization to be accepted into the program. Over the next 12 months, we will build upon our previous efforts to promote oral health equity for Medicaid and CHIP populations.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently released a paper that defines health equity as “the ethical and human rights principle that motivates us to eliminate health disparities,” both a process and an outcome.

Now in in its 11th year, the program gathers a variety of health care leaders to develop strategies that address disparities in health care. We are particularly excited to remain part of this team, which is designed to cultivate leaders who can align equity efforts with the transition to value-based health care.

DentaQuest is one of five health plans in this year’s class and once again the only oral health organization. Our project will focus on how to leverage data and our national footprint to identify and alleviate oral health disparities, while also promoting equity as a key objective for our own organization.

Why is it important that oral health leaders are involved?

Despite progress towards a more equitable health care system, oral health disparities persist.

  • Untreated dental disease is disproportionately prevalent among racial and ethnic minorities
    • 42 percent of African American adults and 36 percent of Hispanic adults have untreated dental disease, compared to 22 percent of Caucasians
  • Among adults with incomes below the federal poverty line, 42 percent have tooth decay—that’s three times more than adults with incomes above 400 percent of the federal poverty line.
  • Rural areas experience higher rates of dental disease and tooth loss with lower preventive utilization rates.
  • Barriers such as cost and fear of discrimination mean just 10 percent of the surveyed LGBT population say they have regular dental visits.

With much progress still to be made, the four branches of the DentaQuest enterprise—benefits administration, philanthropy, science, and care delivery—will work in tandem to reduce inequities in the communities we serves across the country. This work not only enables us to get closer to achieving oral health for all, but also will drive our work with others.

Ultimately, our participation in this program steps up our ability to address health equity collaboratively with our partners – from states and clients to providers and patients.