Integration of Oral Health in Public Health Programs and Public Health Reform

Noncommunicable chronic diseases (NCDs) account for almost 90 percent of total deaths in the U.S. The four most common NCDs – cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, and chronic respiratory diseases – share common risk factors, including tobacco and alcohol use, and dietary behaviors associated with elevated blood sugar and obesity. The most common oral diseases – dental caries, periodontal disease and oral cancer – also share these risk factors. A coordinated approach to prevention that targets these common risk factors has the potential to reduce programmatic costs, and increase efficiency and effectiveness.

National recommendations to guide development and implementation of best practices in this area are lacking. Recent health care delivery reforms provide an ideal opportunity for policymakers to advocate for the inclusion of oral health in these changes.

This project will fill this knowledge gap by conducting an environmental scan of medical-dental integration in public health settings and existing inclusion of oral health in health care reform. This will allow policymakers to maximize existing public health resources by addressing common risk factors for NCDs and oral disease based on evidence-based best practices. This project is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a Special Interest Project through the University of Iowa Prevention Research Center.