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Health Equity Forum: Ethnic Partner Spotlight – July 2017

Advancing Oral Health Equity One Conversation at a Time

By Rebecca DeLaRosa, MPA, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California

Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC) has been working with youth leaders and community and policy advocates to strengthen our network and empower communities to elevate the conversation on oral health equity in their neighborhoods and across the state.

At LCHC, we view community health education and engagement as an ongoing effort to address disparities in oral health. LCHC’s vision is for preventative dental care, as well as acute care, to be available, accessible, and affordable for all Californians. LCHC also envisions a California where the environments in which individuals live, work, learn, and play promote positive community health, including oral health. 

Community Leaders and Oral Health

LCHC first engaged in the oral health space through a project focused on identifying the Latino community barriers to oral health. As part of the Oral Health 2020 Campaign, we trained 45 promotores from the Los Angeles, Inland Empire, and Central Valley regions. Collectively, these promotores have delivered 160 presentations to 2,400 participants. The presentations raised awareness and knowledge on the value of oral health; raised consciousness about the social determinants of oral health; continued to amplify the health dialogue in the Latino community; and advanced health equity through community engagement and ownership.

Through this project, LCHC was able to identify the most pressing barriers to oral health in the Latino community. For example, the lack of dentists that take patients on public insurance; need for transportation, especially in rural regions of the state; economic security and unaffordable cost of care (i.e. having to meet more immediate demands like food and rent); and lack of culturally and linguistically competent care. As a result of these barriers some patients turned to care out of the system in clandestine clinics or crossed the border to Mexico where they are “more comfortable” and where it’s more affordable.

After the trainings, all community leaders gathered to share findings and next steps. An area of need and interest is in advocacy and communications training. LCHC will be conducting additional trainings with community leaders and youth leaders this Summer and Fall.

Youth and Oral Health

LCHC also launched our first Health Justice Fellowship program in partnership with Brown Issues Sacramento. The program aims to support students’ professional development while supporting LCHC’s programs. Health Justice Fellows are experts in their communities and are working to advance oral health equity through peer-to-peer trainings on various topics that are most pressing to the Latino community, including: diabetes prevention; dangers of sugar-sweetened beverages; education; workforce; domestic violence prevention; and healthcare access. The Health Justice Fellows have been working to build a stronger youth coalition across the state and have been giving presentations at various high schools to empower youth to advocate on issues that are most important to them while increasing knowledge on why oral health matters.

 

Health Justice Fellows presenting to high school students on health justice, dangers of sugary drinks and oral health.

 

Health Justice Fellows and LCHC staff training on dangers of sugary drinks and oral health while learning about water challenges and pesticide use in Porterville.