There is growing evidence that the way people live, learn, work, and play has a significant impact on health, including oral health. These social determinants of health (SDOH) — including such things as access to healthy food, safe housing, quality education, and transportation — can shape risk behaviors, environmental exposures, and access to health care. Most persistently affecting marginalized populations, SDOH account for more than one third of total annual deaths in the United States.

The Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) recently led a learning collaborative, funded by the DentaQuest Foundation, that supported three organizations — the Maine Primary Care Association, United Way of Central Jersey, and Youth Empowered Solutions— to develop community-based plans for addressing SDOH with particular impacts on oral health. The collaborative used a framework from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization that has demonstrated success in addressing the social determinants of overall health. Steps in the framework include:

  1. Identifying the social determinants of oral health in a community;
  2. Mapping and mobilizing available community resources through partnerships;
  3. Selecting approaches to take action; and
  4. Evaluating implementation and impact.

In a recent technical assistance brief, A Community Framework for Addressing Social Determinants of Oral Health for Low-Income Populations, CHCS authors describe how organizations can pursue these steps, drawing examples from the learning collaborative. State agencies, state or regional organizations, and other stakeholders working to address “upstream” drivers of oral health in their states, regions or communities, may find this framework useful to their efforts. Other CHCS-led initiatives, such as the State Oral Health Leadership Institute (SOHLI), are further highlighting how Medicaid and public health leaders can work together to address SDOH and other barriers to oral health for low-income populations. For additional resources to guide efforts to improve oral health outcomes, visit CHCS’ oral health topic page.

This post was originally published by the American Academy of Pediatrics Campaign for Dental Health blog.

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