The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of California, today announced it is launching a multi-year program to fund community-based coalitions to address the oral health care crisis among older adults in the U.S. A recent report by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) cited adults aged 65 years and older as the most critically underserved and vulnerable population for oral health care in America. In collaboration with its first two coalition partners, Howard University College of Dentistry and Mary's Center – a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), the Foundation's program is intended to promote the connection between oral health and overall health, provide quality outcomes, improve access and create greater equity in the care and treatment older adults receive.
The program’s broader goals include identifying, assessing and addressing the socioeconomic and systemic causes of poor oral health among older adults, particularly those living in poverty; creating a replicable model for community-driven oral health solutions; and improving quality of life for seniors by reducing oral care disparities. In addition to Howard University College of Dentistry and Mary’s Center, the Foundation will select and work with partners who are actively assisting historically underserved communities and transforming systems to improve oral health outcomes.
“Through Delta Dental’s decades of experience in the oral health care sector, we know that the unmet oral health needs of older adults represent a public health crisis and a serious gap in America’s health ecosystem,” said Kenzie Ferguson, vice president of foundation and corporate social responsibility for Delta Dental of California. “Through this program, the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation and its partners are focused on providing support for the most vulnerable group of seniors – those living in poverty, people of color and those whose mobility issues keep them from receiving oral health care.”
The Foundation’s initial coalition partners, Howard University College of Dentistry and Mary’s Center, are both based in the Washington D.C. metro area and have previously collaborated to address the health needs of communities of color and drive broader systemic change. Each partner will collect data on patient pathology, treatment, barriers to access and social determinants of health. The information will be utilized to identify effective interventions and inform the Delta Dental Senior Oral Health Care Model, which will be replicated as the program develops. The Foundation will expand the program to other communities and partnerships over the next three to five years.
“For more than 10 years, the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation has supported the College of Dentistry and our programs of improving access to care to the underserved,” said Andrea D. Jackson, dean of the Howard University College of Dentistry. “Their generous philanthropic contribution addresses the critical issue in providing oral health care to our senior population. We are excited to partner with the Delta Dental foundation and Mary’s Center to collectively focus on reaching the underserved senior patients and providing a much needed service to improve their oral health and overall health.”
“We are excited to embark on this partnership to address the critical oral health disparities among our older adult community members with the support and generosity of the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation,” said Dr. Tollie B. Elliott, Sr., chief executive officer of Mary’s Center. “Dental services are a core component of Mary’s Center’s holistic, multipronged approach to care. Every day, we see how oral health directly affects overall health and quality of life, and we are determined to close the gaps of essential dental care among our most underserved and under-resourced populations.”