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ADA supports VA-led initiative to assist prevention of hospital-acquired pneumonia

Coordinated effort encourages hospitalized patients to practice consistent oral hygiene

March 02, 2021 Washington — The ADA is part of a new effort spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs aimed at increasing awareness of the importance of lowering the chance of patients contracting nonventilator hospital-acquired pneumonia through the maintenance of good oral health.
 
The coordinated effort, dubbed the National Organization for Hospital Acquired Pneumonia Prevention, encourages patients to practice consistent oral hygiene as a simple measure to help prevent hospital-acquired pneumonia.  

Each year, it is estimated that more than 35 million patients in the U.S. are at risk for nonventilator associated hospital-acquired pneumonia, according to a March 2 press release by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Ryan Vega, M.D., executive director of the Veterans Affairs Office of Health Care Innovation & Learning, said in the release that hospitals have successfully shown that patients who brush their teeth a few times a day can dramatically reduce the risk of pneumonia.

“The practice might also reduce the severity of a COVID-19 infection by lowering the probability of a secondary bacterial pneumonia — a frequent occurrence seen with the virus,” Dr. Vega said. “We are leading efforts to establish a national standard to expand this practice across all health care systems in our country.”

Other collaborators in the initiative include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Joint Commission, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Health Resources and Services Administration, Patient Safety Movement Foundation and others from the private sector and academia.

“This is a simple solution to a costly problem,” said Denise Cardo, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. “The most recent CDC data shows that hospitals are succeeding in their efforts to eliminate certain types of health care-associated infections. However, the prevalence of pneumonia in hospitalized patients has not changed and continues to be the most common health care-associated infection.“

The Department of Veterans Affairs is tracking trends, risk factors and health outcomes for non-device hospital-acquired pneumonia, and the practice has spread to 107 Veterans Affairs facilities across the nation.