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Alliance partners find common ground on access issues

Next colloquium is set for June 6 and 7

May 21, 2012

By Stacie Crozier, ADA News staff

San Francisco—Continuing the collaborative work begun at the ADA’s historic Access to Dental Care Summit in March 2009, the U.S. National Oral Health Alliance is preparing for its third Leadership Colloquium June 6 and 7 in San Francisco.

At work: Dr. Leslie E. Grant, past president of the National Dental Association, ponders a discussion topic at the March Alliance colloquium in Chicago.

For three years, representatives from the dozen stakeholder groups involved in the ADA access summit have been working to find common ground on topics that explore barriers to access.

The first colloquium, held in Washington in November 2011, drew some 125 participants who focused on the issue of medical and dental collaboration. At a second gathering in Chicago in March, 140 or so participants targeted prevention and public health infrastructure for oral health. The June colloquium will highlight oral health literacy as a pathway to health equity. The goal of holding the colloquia is to identify and develop common messages that all diverse parties can promote.

“The Alliance came together with the idea that there was more that united us than divided us,” said Dr. W. Ken Rich, ADA 6th District trustee and founding board member of the Alliance. “We realize that we can make much more progress collaboratively than we can individually because a collaborative voice carries more weight with the policymakers.”

Alliance partners—including the ADA and several individual ADA member dentists—have shone a spotlight on specific access to care issues and come together to get a global perspective and identify where there are differing viewpoints as well as consensus, Dr. Rich added.

Dialogue: Douglas M. Bush, executive director of the Indiana Dental Association, shares ideas on prevention and public health infrastructure at the U.S. National Oral Health Alliance Colloquium March 14. 

“We may not agree on everything, but we can work together on the things we do agree on,” he said.

“One of the great strengths of the U.S. National Oral Health Alliance is the tremendous capacity to bring together diverse stakeholders representing a broad spectrum of interests, professions and geographic locations,” said Dr. Leslie E. Grant, past president of the National Dental Association and an Alliance founding board member. “As these groups interact and dialogue, they are able to identify common ground as well as unique opportunities to implement replicable, sustainable access to oral health care program enhancements. It is certainly heartwarming to see the concept and vision expand into a forum such as this.”

“The Alliance is a group of folks, some with very different backgrounds and, in some cases, very different positions on some controversial issues, who have come together looking for areas of agreement on how dentistry can address access to care,” said Douglas M. Bush, executive director of the Indiana Dental Association and founding board member of the Alliance. “We have folks meeting and exploring access to care solutions that, a few years ago, weren’t even on speaking terms with each other. And through the colloquia, we have hundreds of people coming together from around the country to talk about medical/dental collaboration, prevention and public health infrastructure, and oral health literacy—areas we all agree are important to improving oral health and access to care and areas where there truly is agreement and common ground.”

Group discussion: Pamela J. Tolson, executive director, American Association of Public Health Dentistry, and Dr. Caswell A. Evans, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, focus on a roundtable discussion topic in Chicago March 14 during the U.S. National Oral Health Alliance Second Leadership Colloquium.

The Alliance’s six priority areas address the overarching question that served as the foundation of the ADA’s access summit in 2009: “What are we going to do, in the short and the long term, both individually and collectively, to assure optimal oral health through prevention and treatment for underserved people?”

Those priorities include the two topics already discussed—medical and dental collaboration and prevention and public health infrastructure; plus oral health literacy, the upcoming topic for June. The other priority areas include metrics for improving oral health, financing models and strengthening the dental care delivery system.

Access viewpoints: Dr. W. Ken Rich, ADA 6th District trustee, listens as Mary Pat Burgess, R.D.H., Chicago Department of Public Health, weighs in on a discussion topic during the Alliance’s second leadership colloquium held in March.

The not-for-profit organization welcomes new partners to join as it carries out its mission to “provide a platform for a diverse network of stakeholders to forge common ground in order to harness opportunities and create viable solutions for improved oral health through prevention and treatment for vulnerable populations across our country.”

Registration is still open for the third colloquium June 6 and 7 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco. The colloquium is free of charge and the Hyatt is offering special room rates for those attending.

Visit the Alliance website,, for more information on the colloquium, to register or to learn more about the Alliance and its work. Reports from the first two colloquia are also available.