Oral health summit in Aptos highlights strategic plan, honors local leaders – Santa Cruz Sentinel

Santa Cruz County Oral Health Access co-chairs David Brody (left) and Sheree Storm (right) speak to nearly 100 people at the Oral Health Summit Wednesday at Seaview Golf Club in Aptos. (PK Hattis-Santa Cruz Sentinel)

APTOS — Santa Cruz County oral health care leaders gathered in Aptos this week to highlight the launch of a new program to address dental care inequities and celebrate past accomplishments that are moving things right direction of development.

The strategic plan, which guides the county’s oral health initiatives from 2024 to 2028, was developed by Oral Health Access Santa Cruz County, a coalition of 24 local government agencies, nonprofits and health care providers that coordinates efforts to provide Provide patients with better treatment outcomes.

Access to oral health care for low-income people in Santa Cruz County … has been a persistent problem,” David Brody said of the oral health care gathering at Seaview Golf Club in Aptos. said nearly 100 people at the health summit. Brody is Co-Chair of Oral Health Access and Executive Director of First 5 Santa Cruz County. “When we started this work, we not only made sure that we made a change, but as we've shown that it's a measurable change, I think it's clear that we've come a long way, we There is still work to be done”.

The group and its first strategic plan was launched in 2016 and focuses on children's care, expanding treatment, prevention and clinical capabilities. Since then, an additional 3,400 people on Medi-Cal have visited a dentist countywide, and 57% of children 2 years old and younger on Medi-Cal have seen a dentist annually, according to the 2022 Countywide Dental Care Assessment. That proportion is only 25% statewide.

The cumulative number of dental appointments offered by Dients (part of the alliance) and Watsonville-based Salud Para La Gente was 33,000 in 2012, 55,000 in 2016, and increased to 62,000 in 2022.

“We have made great progress since 2012,” said Dr. Sung Sohn, dental director of Salud Para La Gente. “But more needs to be done.”

As part of its new four-year strategic plan, the alliance will work toward four key goals: continued capacity expansion, partnerships with local schools, a focus on seniors, and integration of medical and dental care.

In terms of capacity, the organization aims to increase the number of dental appointments from 62,000 to 74,000 by 2028. To achieve this, the organizations aim to increase the capacity of existing clinics and mobile dental programs and hire more dentists, hygienists and assistants.

Adults 65 and older are also a major concern for local dental leaders because, according to Dientes CEO Laura Marcus, only about 25% of Medi-Cal seniors currently have them, despite a recent survey ordered by Dientes. Sixty-one percent of older respondents who visit the dentist believe oral health is important.

“For me, it was eye-opening because you think about housing, food and other health care services,” Marcus said. “Older adults know their teeth matter—and so does oral health.”

Poor oral health is associated with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, adverse birth outcomes, limited ability to eat healthy foods, find a job or socialize with peers, said Dr. Sepi, executive vice president of operations and chief dental officer at Dientes. related.

Last year, county health leaders told the Board of Supervisors they expected that by 2030, one-third of the county's residents would be 60 or older. A little more than 20% of the county's population.

The organization plans to increase dental visits among Medi-Cal seniors to 40% by 2028 by providing mobile dental services at senior centers and dining locations, promoting transportation options that make dental appointments more accessible, distributing hygiene kits and advocating for increased Dental Benefits Medical Insurance.

該活動還表彰了當地的一些口腔健康英雄,包括來自Salud Para La Gente 的Sohn 和Rachel Sandobal 以及來自Dientes 的Taghvaei 和聖克魯斯縣第二區主管Zach Friend,他曾擔任當地合作夥伴小組的聯合President.

Project Smile, a student-led organization at UC Santa Cruz that distributes oral hygiene kits to people in disadvantaged communities, received a Rising Star Award.

“I don't think anyone can identify a place where the work that has been done over the past eight years has had a greater impact and greater change in access and outcomes,” Friend said. “Every one of those percentages is a person; it's a child; it's a senior; it's a member of our community who is inaccessible and in many ways forgotten.

The 24 partners contributing to the coalition include Dientes Community Dental, Delta Dental, Salud Para La Gente, Community Bridges, First 5 Santa Cruz County, Santa Cruz County Office of Education, Santa Cruz Community Health, Senior Network Services, United Way Santa Cruz County and the county’s human services agencies.

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