Since 2010, Hawai‘i has received a failing grade in three oral health report cards published by The Pew Center on the States. Specifically, Medicaid does not provide any preventive oral health care for adults and only emergency dental (extraction or pain management). This has resulted in many low-income adults only seeking dental care for acute conditions that have been allowed to reach a crisis stage.
Additionally, in Hawai‘i, fluoridated water is only available on military bases where it benefits only 11.7% of residents, the lowest rate in the nation. Not coincidentally, Hawaii’s children have the highest rate of tooth decay in the country.
In response to making oral health a priority for the state, the Hawai‘i Public Health Institute and the Department of Health Family Services Division co-convened the Statewide Oral Health Strategic Plan Meeting on May 17, 2018. The meeting was well attended with over 90 guests from across the state representing oral health stakeholders, state agencies, oral health providers, and community members.
The convening featured a legislative panel on oral health with Senator Karl Rhoads and Representative Matt LoPresti, who answered questions from the audience on fluoridation, restoring adult Medicaid benefits, and recent efforts to expand the dental workforce.
Keynote speaker Dr. Howard Pollick from the University of California, San Francisco shared the history of community fluoridation legislation in Hawai‘i and emphasized the value of coalition teamwork to advance oral health policy change.
Maggie Morris and Trish La Chica from Hawai‘i Public Health Institute presented the findings of the statewide oral health town hall meetings. Using the social ecological model to frame strategies, the data includes 30 themes that emerged from the audio recordings — 23 on oral health and 7 on demographics.
Dr. Gavin Uchida, dental director for the Department of Health, provided an update on the strategic plan framework, which will be available in the fall of 2018. We are hoping that once the framework is in place, policy solutions and community-based strategies will come to fruition and help many of Hawaii’s families to smile with confidence.
For more information, visit HICOH.org.