14:58 PM

Eliminating Disparities; Promoting Health Equity

Dr. Chester W. Douglass, Harvard University School of Dental Medicine and Harvard School of Public Health and Dr. Philip Woods, Periodontist and Reede Scholar.

Guest blog post by Ralph Fuccillo, President, DentaQuest Foundation

The DentaQuest Foundation was honored to sponsor the Reede Scholars 2nd Annual Health Equity Symposium held at Harvard Medical School on May 12, 2011. An audience of more than 75 leaders among the health professions, including community programming, health delivery systems, health plans and purchasers, large employers, government leaders, and health policy experts attended.

Reede Scholars are health care professionals (physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists and dentists) who are working from the grassroots level to the national level, in business, academia and government. This makes for a powerful network of individuals with numerous and varied talents, experiences and interests -- all focused on improving the health and well-being of underserved populations and racial/ethnic minorities.

The program is named to honor its creator and mentor, Dr. Joan Y. Reede, a pioneer in efforts to improve the representation of ethnic minorities in health services careers and founder of the Minority Health Policy Fellowship. Dr. Reede is an inspiration for thousands who seek to make a difference in the health of their communities. Reede Scholars are advancing public health goals that aim to remedy the root causes of poor health, chronic illnesses, morbidity and death and encouraging greater civic participation and support for improved health, community empowerment, and health equity.

The 2011 Health Equity Symposium explored Health Information Technology (HIT) as an approach to achieving health equity. Dr. David Blumenthal, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology under President Barack Obama, spoke about the potential of health information technologies as a tool providers can use to better understand the socio-demographics of their patients and monitoring for disparities. Properly used, HIT has the potential to provide a rich and consistent profile of the patient to all his/her providers (medical, behavioral, oral health) not just for diagnosis but also as a point of engagement for patient education and lifestyle improvements.

Often, problems with access to dental care can be linked to the insufficient number of dental and medical provider groups with the experience and training to offer culturally competent care to the population as it is now. Investing in educational programs to diversify the student pool and provide consistent quality experiences outside of traditional clinics is nothing less than investing in the future. Sponsorship of the Reede Health Equity Symposium is one example of DentaQuest’s investments in public health dentistry, health equity and eliminating disparities.

DentaQuest shares the commitment that the return on these investments continue to add new professionals who enter public and private practice with the cultural sensitivity and training to meet the needs of the population as it is now and as it will change.