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What is “Increasing Access to Dental Services for Children and Adults on the Central Coast”?
Increasing Access to Dental Services for Children and Adults on the Central Coast is a needs assessment commissioned by Dientes Community Dental Care that addresses the barriers, resources, access and utilization issues related to oral health in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. The needs assessment was prepared by Barbara Aved Associates, a Sacramento-based, dental healthcare consulting firm.
Why is oral health so important?
The importance of visiting the dentist is often overlooked, but not receiving dental care can have serious consequences. Poor oral health is linked to heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. For pregnant women, certain oral health issues are associated with premature birth and low birth weight. Untreated dental pain can cause people to miss school or work. It can make it difficult for seniors to eat. For children especially, it can be hard to smile and fit in socially when they are insecure about their teeth.
How does this affect Santa Cruz County?
The need is massive. 80,000 people covered by Medi-Cal in Santa Cruz County, only 25,000 are able to visit the dentist. Out of 58 private dental offices in Santa Cruz, only 10 take Denti-Cal, and the five clinics are at capacity.
The needs assessment also revealed that very few adults who are on Medi-Cal actually receive dental care, and in general seniors on Medicare have no dental benefits. Although dental coverage is required to be made available for children under all health care plans, 30.8% of children in Santa Cruz under the age of 11 have never visited a dentist and almost one-quarter of all pre-k children have untreated dental decay. Access to dental care must be increased in order to improve the quality of life of Santa Cruz County’s residents.
Why was the Oral Health Access committee created?
The needs assessment, Increasing Access to Dental Services for Children and Adults on the Central Coast, outlines an urgent need for dental care that is much greater than any organization can tackle alone. As a result, the Oral Health Access Santa Cruz County steering committee was created. This group of local health industry experts, community leaders, and education advocates, will work to define concrete ways to address one of Santa Cruz County’s major hidden health epidemics before the end of 2016.
What will the Oral Health Access committee do?
The steering committee will review and discuss the recommendations made in the needs assessment. Members will create a plan of action, including next steps and potential partnerships. The committee’s goal is to engage more organizations in the effort to improve the oral health of Santa Cruz County. Community leaders can work together to expand access and improve services to Medi-Cal members.
In addition to addressing access to dental care, the steering committee will be evaluating recommendations to address the lack of oral health education. Prevention education is an important way to engage people to manage their own health to reduce preventable dental disease.
Who is on the Oral Health Access steering committee?
In order to provide comprehensive leadership, Oral Health Access Santa Cruz will be co-chaired by Dientes’ Dental Director Dr. Sepi Walthard and Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zach Friend.
Dr. Walthard is a public health advocate who is dedicated to serving the community. After spending several years in a corporate dentistry leadership role, she returned to her passion of community dentistry. She is ardent about leading this committee.
Supervisor Friend has spent his adult life committed to public service. While he has experience working in the White House, the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate, his greatest impacts have been in local government. He is enthusiastic about working for the community, and collaborating with community leaders.
The Oral Health Access Santa Cruz steering committee will also include representation from the following organizations (a complete list of committee members can be found on oralhealthscc.org):
- California State Assembly
- Central California Alliance for Health
- First 5 Santa Cruz County
- Health Improvement Partnership of Santa Cruz County
- Monterey Bay Dental Society
- Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust
- Palo Alto Medical Foundation
- Salud Para La Gente
- Santa Cruz Community Health Centers
- Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency
- Santa Cruz County Human Services Department
- Santa Cruz County Office of Education
When will the Oral Health Access committee meet?
The committee meetings will be held over the course of five months, with the last meeting in November. Though general feedback is valued, the meetings are only for committee members.
What is the Oral Health Access Summit?
The Oral Health Access Summit is a community briefing where the steering committee will inform all of the findings and recommendations. The summit will be held in late fall 2016.
What results will the Oral Health Access committee provide?
The outcome of the committee’s work will be recommendations for short-term, mid-term, and long-term actionable, measurable goals. Dientes will issue a report card approximately one year after the summit that will show how the community has improved oral health over that year.
How can I help? Who can I contact for more information?
After the summit, actionable next steps will need to be carried out. Community leaders, healthcare practitioners and education advocates will continue to work on this serious issue, and will need support from citizens in their efforts. A final report with the results and recommendations from the committee meetings and summit will be made available on the website: oralhealthscc.org. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.