Conducting a Population Profile

Delivering community-based oral health care requires careful planning and consideration. No two community-based care environments are the same. The dental provider should begin by formulating a team consisting of the dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, administrator(s) and key personnel from the organization being served. This team may also include funders. It is the role of this team to determine the needs of the population and examine potential interventions to meet those needs.

Table 1 outlines some basic information that needs to be collected by the team. The team must take into consideration the population and their individual needs. Most likely the team will need to complete a population profile or community profile and needs assessment to determine the appropriate intervention. This profile will provide a thorough description of the demographics of the population to be served. This can be accomplished by examining published data, screening the oral health of individuals who will be receiving care, surveying individuals and/or guardians, surveying personnel from the location being served, and/or conducting a focus group. It is at this stage that a champion from the organization or community will be identified to help build acceptance of the program.

Table 1. Basic information to collect for a needs assessment or population profile.
  1. Population to be served
  2. Location of the population to be served
  3. Number in population
    • Age categories
    • Gender
  4. Demographics of the population-includes, but not limited to:
    • Ethnicity
    • Educational Status
    • Financial Status
  5. Immigrant status
    • Natural born citizen
    • New American
    • Naturalized citizen
  6. Religious Affiliation
    • Primary affiliation
    • Local gathering center for religious activities
  7. School system information
    • Names of all schools-public and private
    • Names of school officials-including school nurses
    • Numbers of students at all grade levels
    • Names of community colleges, technical schools and local universities
  8. Health status
    • Oral health status-periodontal and decay experience, community water fluoridation
    • Medical health status-predominant health issues
    • Mechanisms for payment of health care- Medicaid, private insurance, self-pay
  9. Insurance status
    • No insurance
    • Medicaid
    • Private pay
  10. Access to health services
    • Hospital availability
    • Out-patient medical clinics-private and safety net clinics
    • Home health services
    • Dental clinics
    • Social service agencies
    • County/city health departments
  11. Access to daily living resources
    • Food pantries and meal programs
    • Clothing exchanges
    • GED, reading programs and other educational programs
  12. Local governmental and organizational structure
    • Names of elected officials
    • Civic organizations and names of officers
    • Specific interests/projects of local government or civic organizations

When the needs have been determined, the team will begin planning a program. Figure 2 provides a list of questions that community organizations have been advised to ask dental service providers to determine the type of oral health program that will best meet the needs of individuals served by the organization. The dental provider should be well prepared to answer and discuss these questions.

Figure 2. Key questions for community organizations to ask dental providers.52-54
  1. Why should our organization allow a community-based dental program to service our community?
  2. Who owns the program? How is it funded?
  3. What treatments and services will your program offer (dental screenings, dental sealants, preventive services, and/or restorative services)? How long will this take?
  4. Where will services be provided? What are the space, water, and electrical needs?
  5. Do you have a letter of reference?
  6. How is eligibility for the program’s services determined? Will the program provide the full scope of treatment to all individuals who return a consent form?
  7. Will there be any charge to program participants? Are uninsured individuals offered the same services as insured individuals?
  8. How does the program determine whether or not the individual has a regular dental provider?
  9. What type of informed consent does the program use?
  10. What are the organization’s responsibilities? How much time will be involved?
  11. How is follow-up case management handled? How is urgent care (within 24 hours) handled? Who is responsible for this?
  12. Who will answer parent/guardian questions or concerns after treatment has been provided?
  13. What referral mechanisms have been established with local dentists or clinics?
  14. How long and how often will your program be onsite?
  15. How can individual patient records be obtained by parents/guardians and future dental providers?
  16. What oral health data will be collected? How will this information be shared with the community organization, parents/guardians, local health departments, and state oral health programs?
  17. What infection control policies and procedures are in place?
  18. Are all treatment providers licensed in the state where dental services are being provided?
    For programs that offer restorative services…
  19. Will treatment plans be established? Will all of the necessary treatment be completed and in what timeframe?