Preventistry, Systems Change, and Oral Health
We talk a lot about the health system in America as a health system that is broken. Yet, it is hard to find clear explanations of what is broken. This is meant to clear things up, but also to demonstrate that oral health should no longer be separate from the entire health system.
A system is “a set of things — people, cells, molecules or whatever — interconnected in such a way that they produce their own pattern of behavior over time.” Everything that we experience and interact with is a part of a system. Systems can be as large as ecosystems, such as the oceans and the whole economy, or smaller sets, such as an organization or even our own body.
Systems form rules that create order and maintain the status quo. These rules can make them resistant to changes from outside the system, resulting in less than ideal consequences. See: our health care system. Thanks to the rules and order formed as care evolved, we now have a less than ideal system with medical, behavioral, oral, and other health operating separately instead of together.
At DentaQuest, we know some oral health system rules have led to a lack of access to care for lower income people. Other consequences include disparities in oral health by race, ethnicity, health status, and where you live.
To change that status quo and get different results, we have to change the systems.
Preventistry (read an overview here) is based on the idea that we can improve oral health by changing the systems of policy, care, financing, and the community. These changes, designed to result in improved access to care and overall health, cover:
- Policy decisions by state and federal governments that consistently include oral health and access to dental care as important health issues.
- Care that is focused on prevention, gives people appropriate information about their oral health, and includes providers beyond dental health professionals.
- Financing that supports a focus on prevention instead of drilling and repairing teeth.
- A community with multiple resources to support people as they maintain their and their families’ oral health, as well as access to healthy food and water.
Our Preventistry approach recognizes systems change is critical to make people healthy. Each of us can join the revolution to improve the oral health system: ask your medical doctor about your oral health, pay attention to your child’s teeth and gums, eat a healthy diet, vote in state and local elections, and encourage healthy hygiene habits.
Together, we can move the needle toward a more equitable, integrated, human-centered system. Welcome to Preventistry.