The Washington State Oral Health Coalition (WSOHC) has good reason to keep on smiling. In an environment where coalition building among sometimes collaborative, sometimes competitive stakeholders can be challenging, WSOHC has survived and thrived for a generation.
The Coalition celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2003. It was an occasion to remember the achievements in oral health accomplished between 1993 and 2003. The organization sprouted from a meeting at a picnic table under a tree behind Department of Health (DOH) headquarters at Airdustrial Park in Tumwater. Beth Hines, former Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Oral Health program manager for DOH, was talking with Suzanne Peterson who was then working for Children’s Hospital and who eventually became an administrator at DSHS. The subject of their conversation early in 1992 was the long list of kids waiting for emergency dental care at Children’s Hospital in Seattle.
Following that initial meeting, they put together a second meeting at the Odessa Brown Dental Clinic in Seattle’s Central District. Dr. Peter Domoto, former chair of pediatric dentistry from the University of Washington, and Dr. Maxine Hayes, the state health officer provided dental and medical expertise illustrating the serious consequences of the lack of access to dental care for children in our state. Later, DOH met with Washington Dental Service Foundation(WDSF); and when they asked what they could do to help, Ms. Hines suggested that they assist in starting a statewide oral health coalition.
WDSF agreed to facilitate the process of forming a steering committee and the Coalition was on its way. Founding members included organizations with diverse interests such as state and local government, academia, community dental clinics, and private and public advocates. Task forces were formed to address the lack of access to dental care for children and adults and the prevention of dental disease. The group’s initial planning process also pointed to a need for oral health assessment data in order to measure changes in oral health status.
WSOHC accomplishments include:
Assistance with the State Department of Health’s "Smile Survey" assessment of school children in 1992.
Assistance with the University of Washington county-based third grade oral health survey in 1993.The data from these surveys has provided the basis for much of the work the coalition has undertaken over the past 10 years. Among its accomplishments: Issue papers published on the benefits of fluoridation and dental sealants.
Support for successful Snohomish, Everett, and City of Yakima fluoridation campaigns.
Successful collaboration between private and public partners on health care reform issues before the Health Services Commission.
Successful partnership with DSHS resulting in raising Medicaid reimbursement rates for children’s dental services of $42 million.
Statewide consensus conference that formulated recommendations on dental delivery systems, surveillance, education, and research.
Provision of information and recommendations from diverse perspectives for the legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Dental Access convened to improve access to dental care.
Partnership with DOH resulting in oral health recommendations to the Public Health Improvement Plan.
Partnership with DOH and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction resulting in the "Tooth Tutor," an oral health school curriculum for school nurses which became a national model for outreach oral health education.
WSOHC sub committee input to the state School Based Sealant Guidelines produced by the Department of Health, a national model.
Partnership with DOH and a federal Community Integrated Service Systems (CISS) grant to support the creation of local oral health coalitions and an annual conference, "Community Roots for Oral Health," a national model. Thirteen local oral health coalitions were formed,and the Roots listserv was created.
Collaboration with ABCD, Access to Baby and Child Dentistry, a statewide Medicaid, UW, DOH,and WDSF partnership, a national model for early childhood dental care.
First state oral health coalition to host the National Oral Health Conference in Seattle 2009.
Achievement status as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
Convened the first state Oral Health Summit in 2002 with support from a federal grant. Decision makers and advocates set the course on the issues of education, access, and service delivery for all Washington residents.
Author of record for the Washington State Oral Health Improvement Plan 2009.
Advocacy for return of adult Medicaid dental benefit 2013.
Endorsement of Board of Health strategies 2013.
Support for School Based Sealant Programs 2013.
Advocacy for the inclusion of an oral health measure in the final list of recommendations to the full Performance Measures Coordinating Committee from the Prevention Measures Technical Workgroup in 2014 as an element in the development of standard statewide measures of health performance to inform public and private health care purchasing, cost/value, and outcomes.
While its focus has expanded from children to people of all ages, the Coalition continues to work for improved access to oral health care and capacity for oral health service delivery. Its membership includes dentists and dental hygienists as well as representatives of social service and health care organizations with a stake in oral health, dental clinics, dental foundations, and institutions of higher education. It also includes representation from local oral health coalitions throughout the state.
In 2002, WSOHC produced the first Oral Health Summit, a one-day gathering of oral health decision makers and advocates whose task was to set the course for oral health in the coming years. Working from the blueprint designed that day, the Coalition has moved forward in the areas of adult dental advocacy and workforce development, maintaining a balanced role of informing and being informed on the continuing issues of oral health education, access, and capacity/service delivery for all of Washington’s residents.