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ADA supports Improving the Social Determinants of Health Act

Bill creates new program at CDC to help address disparities faced by minority, underserved populations

March 04, 2021

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The ADA is supporting legislation to create a Social Determinants of Health Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a Feb. 26 letter to Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán, D-Calif., ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D., and Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin, D.M.D., thanked the lawmaker for introducing HR 379, the Improving the Social Determinants of Health Act and said social determinants, such as access to healthy food, professional and educational opportunities, reliable transportation, and safe housing can greatly impact health, including oral health.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the disparities faced by minority and underserved populations,” wrote Drs. Klemmedson and O’Loughlin, who praised the bill for creating a new social determinants of health program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that would help address those disparities.

In the letter, Drs. Klemmedson and O’Loughlin pointed to the ADA’s Action for Dental Health campaign, which helps provide care to people suffering from untreated dental disease. They explained that Action for Dental Health includes initiatives aimed at addressing the social determinants of oral health through eliminating or drastically reducing barriers to quality dental care.

“Community health workers [such as Community Dental Health Coordinators] are instrumental in educating families about oral health and guiding patients to community-based care, while helping them navigate the complexities of access posed by socio-economic, language, cultural and other factors,” wrote Drs. Klemmedson and O’Loughlin.

The ADA also thanked Rep. Barragán for her support of the Action for Dental Health Act, which was signed into law in 2018.

“The law allows the CDC and the Health Resources and Services Administration to award grants or enter into contracts to develop and implement these critical oral health initiatives,” Drs. Klemmedson and O’Loughlin wrote.

“The [Social Determinants of Health Program] created by HR 379 would help enhance ADH by enabling the CDC to give grants to local and state dental organizations, as well as dental schools, so that they can lead efforts on the social determinants of oral health. The ADA is proud to support the Improving the Social Determinants of Health Act and looks forward to continuing to work with you to improve oral health,” the letter concluded.

For more information about the ADA’s advocacy efforts, visit ADA.org/Advocacy.