The Pew Charitable Trusts are wrapping up their long-term dental campaign, which worked to address policy changes that would increase access to dental care.
A recent edition of Health Affairs’ “GrantWatch” blog outlined key oral health policy issues and provided an update on recent foundation grants in oral health. Several GIH Funding Partners are featured.
A new report from the National Institutes of Health provides a road map on how to improve the nation’s oral health. Released by NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), the report emphasizes the importance of oral health, and challenges to the creation of more equitable access to oral health services. Potential roles for health philanthropy are highlighted including grantmaking and policy engagement regarding insurance access, community health education, and school-based dental services.
Dental disease is the single most common chronic childhood disease and is so widespread and the health effects so significant that the U.S. Surgeon General has classified dental disease as a silent epidemic (HHS 2000).
Oral diseases and disorders occur frequently among all populations, but large disparities exist by region, age, socioeconomic status, and race and ethnicity. In response, many oral health grantmakers have become more focused on policy solutions to improve oral health.
Tooth decay remains the single most prevalent chronic disease of America’s children, affecting 44 percent by age six (Dye et al. 2007). Grantmakers, government, and the professions have long focused energy and resources on getting children into dental care to repair the ravages of this preventable disease and to eliminate associated pain and infection.
Grantmakers have long been interested in improving children’s access to health care. Yet, a number of services critical to children’s healthy growth and development—such as mental health and oral health services—fall outside the traditional primary care model. This fragmentation of services has contributed to access barriers and has compromised the quality of pediatric care. Growing awareness of the importance of mental health and oral health has resulted in a variety of innovative efforts to integrate these services into children’s health care.
The consequences of neglecting oral health are significant. Oral disease can interfere with the ability to speak, chew, and swallow. In some cases, painful mouth conditions can result in overuse of emergency rooms and lost productivity, and contribute to low self-esteem. Oral disease, in children alone, is responsible for almost 52 million lost school hours each year.