While dental disease is largely preventable, Florida’s most vulnerable children continue to suffer from poor oral health at increased rates. Access to opportune dental care can ensure that Florida’s children have the care they need to thrive. The Institute’s approach as a statewide organization has always included the application of a health equity lens to all our work. We leverage our position as a state leadership organization to serve as a hub for the advancement of equitable oral health in the state of Florida.
We have designed and piloted an innovative medical-dental integration (MDI) model that embeds dental hygienists into pediatric primary care practices with the goal of increasing direct access to care and preventative dental services for South Florida’s Medicaid-eligible children. Moving oral health care services from traditional dental practices to new settings, we aim for broader level systems change and advocate for this type of integration as a standard of care in Florida. We seek to support other organizations who are considering adapting our model with resources that share tips on financial models, operations, technical assistance and training.
Using principles of collective leadership, we serve as the backbone organization for the statewide oral health collaborative, the Florida Oral Health Alliance, to provide viable support for policies and programs that aim to end inequity and improve oral health. In 2020, we refined the Alliance and updated our scope of work to shift our focus toward collective, impact-driven strategies increasingly focused on state-level policy in oral health to move the Alliance closer to reaching its goal that all Florida children, youth, and families have good oral health and well-being, especially those that are vulnerable.
Of the 4.2 million children ages 0-18 in Florida approximately 43% rely on Medicaid for health care services. We believe that the parents of these children are the experts, and their voices must be included in conversations, decisions, and public policy about their child’s oral health. The Oral Health Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) is an advocacy group of parents from across the state of Florida whose children up to 18 years-old rely on Medicaid for oral health care services. The parents’ guide and inform our advocacy efforts for person centered care and benefits to ensure that every child has the oral care they need to thrive.
Our recently published Oral Health Services Consumer Engagement Report elevates the voices of underserved populations and provides a glimpse into the current reality of children’s oral health in Florida. The report documents the experiences and challenges of parents while seeking oral health for their children, outlines actions taken by the state or policies under consideration to address oral health inequities and provides information and recommendations to guide our partner organizations and state agencies as they work to evaluate and improve oral health care services and delivery in Florida. This is a powerful tool that tells the story behind Florida’s dire oral health statistics.