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Member value, Call to Action for Oral Health fill President-Elect's Conference agenda

February 13, 2013

By Karen Fox, ADA News staff

Focused: Dr. Charles Norman, ADA president-elect, addresses leaders at the conference Jan. 28.

Feedback: Dr. Heather Willis, president-elect of the Alaska Dental Society, participates in an interactive workshop.
The 2013 President-Elect's Conference gave the ADA an opportunity to introduce a bold new advocacy plan and show leaders of constituent societies how they can be part of it.

One of the Association's strategic initiatives for 2013, the Call to Action for Oral Health is a way for the ADA to assertively communicate organized dentistry's contributions to the oral health of the public.

“Many states have already developed public health policies and initiatives that deliver meaningful positive impact on oral health,” said Dr. Charles H. Norman III, the ADA president-elect who hosted the Jan. 27-29 conference with 51 constituent leaders in attendance along with leaders from the Hispanic Dental Association, National Dental Association and American Student Dental Association.

“The Call to Action is actually state-based because every state faces its own challenges with barriers to access and will have to customize plans based on its own needs,” said Dr. Norman. “The premise is simple: people need care now. What we'd like is to have states commit to some of the solutions in the Call to Action.”

The leaders at the conference brainstormed about different ways to contribute to the Call to Action by pursuing initiatives in their own states. Those activities may include creating or expanding the use of Community Dental Health Coordinators; involving elected officials in charitable initiatives like Give Kids A Smile and Mission of Mercy programs; emergency room diversion programs; expanding water fluoridation; and encouraging federally qualified health centers to contract with private dentists.

Speaking out: Dr. Puneet Kochhar, president-elect of the New Hampshire Dental Society, contributes to a discussion during the conference.
“Our hope is that by having states contribute to the discussion, they can hear what opportunities exist for them, learn what other states are doing and also discuss obstacles they may have with some of these initiatives,” said Dr. Norman.

“Decision-makers and the public react more positively to solutions that seek to promote prevention and education and improve access to care,” he added. “By focusing on ADA policies that break down barriers to care, we can increase the extent to which the ADA is a trusted source of information on improving oral heath and a committed advocate for people who do not have dental care.”

The President-Elect's Conference gave constituent societies an opportunity to collaborate on another key challenge: delivering value to members and increasing the percentage of dentists who belong.

“The platform we stand upon allows us to network with others and form collaborations that make our voice stronger than ever,” Dr. Norman said to conference goers, adding: “We represent seven out of 10 dentists in this country, which indicates to policy-makers that we speak for the profession.”

However, Dr. Norman added, “over the next two years, organizational leadership will be put to the test by tense political, cultural and economic climates. This is our opportunity to make a difference through leadership; a renewed leadership that starts here, today.”

“Now's the time for action for membership growth,” Dr. Kathleen O'Loughlin, ADA executive director, told the presidents-elect, who worked together on ideas to help shape membership action agendas. “We have to make joining easy for dentists, and we need to be great at innovating value together as components, constituents and ADA. We've got to be in the same boat and row together. By all of us aligning to serve member needs, we can knock this out of the park.”

Before adjourning, Dr. Norman, the ADA president-elect from Greensboro, N.C., encouraged attendees to continue the interaction with one another that for many began at this event.

“When you are president, there is no need to reinvent the wheel when you can learn from each other's experiences,” said Dr. Norman. “We encouraged them to continue to build those relationships, and that will continue with national webinars and through ADA Connect.”