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DentaQuest honors oral health advocates

May 14, 2015

By Craig Palmer

Boston – DentaQuest named seven oral health leaders as 2015 Health Equity Heroes May 4 including Kevin Earle, executive director of the Arizona Dental Association, and ADA members Dr. Debony Hughes and Dr. Charae Farmer-Dixon.

Each hero is making significant contributions to removing barriers to achieve optimal oral health for all, the oral health company said. "Connecting people with care is what we do at DentaQuest," said Steve Pollock, president and chief executive officer. "It is important work, but we do not do this alone. When you think of the challenges many people across the U.S. face to achieve access and care, the work of our seven Health Equity Heroes is important and remarkable."

Mr. Earle
Kevin Earle, executive director of the Arizona Dental Association since 2008, is a principal organizer and supporter of the Arizona American Indian Oral Health Initiative. The coalition of tribal governments, urban Indian organizations, service providers and stakeholders is bringing public policy issues impacting the oral health of American Indian communities to the forefront of policy discussions at the state and tribal level, DentaQuest said. He is also a leading advocate for the restoration of Medicaid dental benefits for adults as well as dental coverage for disabled adults in Arizona.

"Arizona has 21 federally-recognized tribes and the oral health needs among these tribes are extraordinarily compelling," Mr. Earle said. "Native American children suffer from tooth decay at a rate four times greater than the general population. That's a pretty stark statistic and we clearly have to do something about it."

Dr. Farmer-Dixon
Dr. Charae Farmer-Dixon, dean and professor at Meharry Medical College, is a visionary educator committed to overcoming health disparities and dental disease in low-income children in Tennessee, DentaQuest said. A faculty member for 25 years, she also leads research on oral health disparities and dental disease in low-income children and is an innovator in effective community outreach. Dr. Farmer-Dixon is viewed as a role model and leading advocate for public health dentistry in Tennessee.

"Healthy smiles are a challenge for many in Tennessee," Dr. Farmer-Dixon said. "Community outreach is a fundamental part of our curriculum. Our students go to churches and health fairs and even hospitals to reach and educate children, seniors and families about dental health and prevention. They are an integral part of today's inter-professional health care team."

Dr. Hughes
Dr. Debony Hughes, program manager of the Prince George's County Health Department Dental Health Program, has been at the forefront of efforts to make dental care accessible and affordable for children and adults in Maryland, DentaQuest said. She oversees the Deamonte Driver Mobile Unit, which provides education and dental treatments to 20 Title 1 schools in PG County, serving more than 10,000 students. The mobile unit brings oral health services to children at schools, leading to better oral health for children and their families. Dr. Hughes also works extensively with the PG County Head Start program to broaden the availability of dental services to very young children.

"We are working to make sure everyone understands the importance of good oral health," Dr. Hughes said. "It takes more than seeing the dentist once a year. It's thinking about what we eat and drink every day. It's drinking fluoridated water. It is teaching parents to take their babies to the dentist at age one. These small steps are working. Our youngest Head Start children are brushing their teeth every day. We are connecting them with a dental home so they get regular follow up visits. It makes me happy to see that most Head Start children have a successful first dental exam."

DentaQuest's other inaugural Health Equity Heroes include:

Ana Palomo-Zerfas, migrant health and community engagement program manager for the Vista Community Clinic, San Diego, Calif.;

David L. Dunn, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for health affairs, University of Louisville;

Rucha Kavathe, Ph.D., project manager for the community education and empowerment directorate at UNITED SIKHS, New York, N.Y., and

Edgar Carmona, associate executive director, AIDS Interfaith Network's (AIN) Manos Unidas, Dallas, Texas.