On Friday, September 21, about fifty oral health advocates from the metro Chicago area gathered to attend an oral health summit organized by the Chicago Community Oral Health Forum (CCOHF).
Representatives from the Chicago Dental Society and its foundation were in attendance, including
- Dr. Gary Alder, Government Affairs Committee member
- Dr. Gerry Ciebien, Government Affairs Committee member
- Randy Grove, CDS executive director
- Rodney Watt, CDS Foundation executive director
- Joanna Brown, Access to Care liaison and senior staff writer
- Keri Kramer, communications director
The reason for this summit was to review the Chicago Oral Health Plan (PDF), spearheaded by CCOHF. I had the opportunity to unveil the enhanced search tool for dental clinics in Cook, Lake and DuPage Counties and discuss more generally the society and foundation's longstanding commitment to improving access to dental care. (You can view the short slideshow here or read more about the clinic tool in our press release.)
Dr. Bechara Choucair, health commissioner for the city of Chicago, provided an update on the city's efforts to improve oral health, noting that one of the Healthy Chicago priorities is access to health care.
Dr. Choucair described how the now-closed clinics in the city had once served 4,500 patients annually. By moving resources to a school-based model of dental care that involved public-private partnerships, the city increased access to dental care among schoolchildren to 100,000 children served annually at 633 schools.
The department plans to expand the program to reach every Chicago public school and include high schools. They are also incorporating oral health education into the treatment provided.
The Chicago Dental Society Foundation, which, together with CDS, donates 100,000 dental supplies to schoolchildren each year, is partnering with Chicago Public Schools to provide educational resources. CCOHF as well is providing curriculum materials and instruction to schools participating in the dental program.
Drs. Alejandra Valencia Mona Van Kanegan, both on staff at CCOHF, provided a background on the group, which was cofounded in 2008. They described its three goals as:
- Monitoring use of health care system
- Expanding oral health infrastructure
- Developing and expand oral health promotion
Dr. Van Kanegan explained how dental visit within the last 12 months was a leading health indicator, according to Healthy People 2020, and CCOHF was collecting baseline data on patients 2 and up who have received dental care in the past year.
Ms. Megan Erskine, student health specialist for the Chicago Public Schools, told the group "health is academic" and how CPS was investing in ways to remove health-related barriers to learning.
Dr. Caswell Evans, executive committee member of CCOHF, gave the closing address, calling the conference "a momentous occasion" capitalizing on public interest in oral health. He pointed to the Surgeon General's report on oral health and how public-private partnerships are critical in addressing address issues of oral health. Dr. Evans urged to be prepared to deliver on the plan as it holds the potential to be a model for the country.