The dental profession has acknowledged this Call to Action and has responded to the call for initiatives aimed at improving oral health literacy, reducing oral health care disparities, and improving the oral health of the nation.
According to Gary Podschun, former Manager, Community Outreach and Cultural Competence for the ADA, the American Dental Association’s House of Delegates adopted a definition of oral health literacy in 2005. That definition was amended in 2006 to be consistent with the definitions proposed by the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) and the NIDCR’s Working Group on Functional Oral Health Literacy (2004) and currently reads as follows:
“The degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate oral health decisions.”
Also, at the ADA’s House of Delegates meeting in 2006 the delegates adopted the following six oral health literacy-related resolutions:
In adopting these resolutions the ADA has recognized the need to address the problem of health literacy and has embarked on a major initiative to help improve communication between patients and dental team members. The ADA’s Council on Access, Prevention and Inter-professional Relations (CAPIR), has assembled a 12-member National Oral Health Literacy Advisory Committee (NOHLAC) to advise the council on interventions and strategies designed to improve national oral health literacy.
The ADA updated the status of these resolutions in August of 200825 and reported the following:
- That the ADA have a formal policy acknowledging the importance of communication skills
- Develop a 3 to 5-year strategic communication plan
- Urge the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE) to include assessment of communication skills in national board examinations
- Encourage the ADA’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) to include health literacy and communication skills Standards for Pre-doctoral Dental Education and Standards for Allied Dental Education Programs
- Suggest ADEA and ASDA have health literacy sessions at annual meetings
- Explore including communication skills as an admission criterion
- ADA add health literacy to its research agenda
- Urge NIDCR to expand its health literacy research funding through the NIH multi-Institute health literacy program announcement
In addition, NOHLAC discussed the 2008 ADA Survey of Dental Team Members that was conducted to determine knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors related to health literacy. The Committee identified the following study objectives:
You can read the article, Dentist-patient communication techniques used in the United States: The results of a national survey, that was published by the ADA subsequent to completing the national survey at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002817714620110.
The ADA is making a concerted effort to become the trusted oral health resource for the public. One way in which they are doing this is by working to raise awareness through collaboration. Three examples:
Sharecare is an online resource launched by Dr. Oz and Jeff Arnold of WebMD. Health professionals answer questions asked by the public online. Oral health is one of the 48 topics covered on the site. Nearly 300 ADA active licensed member dentists have answered questions as individual oral health experts on the site (i.e., they do not represent the ADA when they answer questions).
In 2010, the ADA also convened the first National Roundtable for Dental Collaboration. This effort has led to the formation of a new coalition: the Partnership for Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives with an alliance of 34 oral health organizations. They will launch a national public service campaign in the summer of 2012 worth $100 million. The goal of the campaign is to reduce the risk of oral diseases in children through prevention.
A new consumer website, MouthHealthy.org, was launched by the ADA in June, 2012 and will feature dental symptom checker, life stage content, and nutritional information. These initiatives represent the ADA’s commitment to improving health literacy of the public and the communication skills of the profession.
Other professional dental groups have also committed time and resources to the issue of oral health and oral health literacy. Symposia and presentations related to oral health literacy have been included at conferences such as: National Oral Health Conference (NOHC),American Association of Public Health Dentistry’s (AAPHD), American Public Health Association (APHA), American Association of Dental Research (AADR), International Association of Dental Research (IADR), and at the ADA’s annual meeting.