‘The Oral Health Needs Index is designed to be an easy to access, place-based analytic tool with resources that links environmental and social determinants of health, health behaviors, and healthcare access to oral health outcomes.’
-Rueben C. Warren – Professor of Bioethics, Tuskegee University
The preceding quotation highlights a serious health challenge that has persisted for decades. Maintaining good oral health requires far more than simply providing care. Consequently, oral health and oral healthcare are interdependent and impacted by three important elements: availability (suitable or ready to use), accessibility (able to be used, entered, or reached) and/or acceptability (meeting only minimum requirements). These three elements are of great importance because undeserved populations are disproportionally impacted by oral diseases; disparities with consequences that are exacerbated by a lack of data much less meaningful access to it.
The Institute of Medicine defines public health as “what we as a society do to collectively assure the conditions in which people can be healthy.”1
There is growing recognition of the link between social determinants of health, including social, economic, and environmental conditions, and health outcomes. With respect to oral health, there is burgeoning evidence that health insurance inequalities, cultural norms, income, limited access to healthy foods, unemployment, and transportation are among the social determinants that have a particular impact on access to oral health care and care-seeking behaviors.2 READ MORE
Moreover, it is increasingly understood that inequitable distribution of these conditions across various population groups is a significant contributor to persistent and pervasive oral health disparities. These disparities were first recognized in the 2001 Surgeon General’s report on oral health as he described, “A silent epidemic of oral diseases is affecting our most vulnerable citizens our most vulnerable citizens, poor children, the elderly, and many members of racial and ethnic minority groups”.
National efforts and guidelines such as Healthy People 2020 (HP 2020) address these conditions and subsequent health disparities. To achieve its vision, HP 2020 acknowledges “that communities, States, and national organizations will need to take a multidisciplinary approach to achieving health equity — an approach that involves improving health, education, housing, labor, justice, transportation, agriculture, and the environment, as well as data collection itself”
To be successful, easy-to-access, meaningful data is required at the local, state, and national level. This would lead changes to data-based, trackable organizational, environmental, economic, and policy strategies that ultimately result into community and system level changes.
The Oral Health Needs Index is a place based analytic resource to help assess and develop strategies to address social determinants related to oral health. We aim to not only increase access to available data but also identify and develop new data sources that help address these interconnected disparities. See Resource tab for additional resources for the Social Determinants of Health/Social Determinants of Oral Health
The Oral Health Needs Index is designed to be an easy to access, place-based analytic tool with resources that links environmental and social determinants of health, health behaviors, and healthcare access to oral health outcomes. By examining the provided data and resources users can determine area where resources and services are most needed and uncover hidden patterns and correlations which can then be addressed leading to improved access to care, utilization, and outcomes. Thus, reducing oral health disparities.