Partnership to Improve Oral Healthcare for Patients With Disabilities

Dentistry Today
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Henry Schein and the Viscardi Center are teaming up to create Project Accessible Oral Health (POAH), an international public-private partnership that will raise awareness of and address the significant need for increased oral healthcare for people with disabilities, improving their overall health and quality of life.

People with disabilities face barriers in accessing quality oral healthcare, such as difficulties in paying for treatment, obtaining dental coverage, and the physical challenges of going to a dentist and getting in a dental chair. The lack of alignment in the reimbursement system creates an added challenge for practitioners in serving this population, requiring ongoing professional development and training to address the unique needs of patients with diverse disabilities. 

POAH will host an inaugural meeting on October 26 and October 27, convening experts from dentistry and disabilities-focused healthcare, as well as dental educators, advocates, and members of the disabilities community, plus public health and policy experts and dental industry representatives. Together, they will explore ways to improve access to oral healthcare for people with disabilities while advancing oral health literacy among the broader community.

Steve Perlman, DDS, founder of Special Olympics Special Smiles, will serve as the keynote speaker for the first day of the event, which will be held at the Viscardi Center in Albertson, N.Y. The day will feature panel discussions on accessibility and disability in healthcare, public policy trends at the intersection of oral health and disabilities, and the personal accounts of healthcare providers and members of the disabilities community.  

“Now is the time to bring oral health into the conversation, as it plays a significant role in overall health,” said John D. Kemp, president and CEO of the Viscardi Center. “Project Accessible Oral Health is an opportunity to explore challenges, collaboratively create solutions, and build a roadmap to a healthier future for individuals while examining cost-effective coverage and reimbursement strategies.”

The second day, held at the New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry in Manhattan, will feature panel discussions on the global scope of the issue and the potential impact of successful collaborations. Rabbi Kalman Samuels, founder of the Jerusalem-based Shalva Children’s Center, will be the keynote speaker. Shalva, a non-denominational group that provides programming and care for people with disabilities, will host POAH’s 2018 meeting in Israel.

“Dental schools play a crucial role in preparing the next generation of dental professionals, and that should include how to treat patients whose disabilities may present unique challenges,” said Mark Wolff, DDS, PhD, associate dean for predoctoral clinical education at the NYU College of Dentistry and a co-organizer of the meeting.

POAH is supported by the Alliance for Oral Health Across Borders, Bedford Healthcare Solutions, the Claire Friedlander Family Foundation, Colgate, the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation, the New York State Dental Association Foundation, the Pacific Dental Services Foundation, and the Special Care Dentistry Association. 

“We at Henry Schein have long understood that oral health and overall health are deeply connected, and Project Accessible Oral Health is a momentous step forward toward a public health framework that offers people with disabilities greater access to quality oral healthcare and a better quality of life,” said Stanley M. Bergman, chairman of the board and chief executive officer at Henry Schein.

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