NRHA's National Rural Oral Health Initiative 2023 year in review

NRHA's National Rural Oral Health Initiative 2023 year in review
NRHA's National Rural Oral Health Initiative 2023 year in review

This year has been full of new and expanded activities for the National Rural Oral Health Initiative, a partnership between NRHA and CareQuest Institute for Oral Health. The initiative hosted three lunch-and-learn programs and a community health worker training, released two topic papers, and published an op-ed all focused on rural oral health. Additionally, the initiative built new partnerships and supported state-level advocacy to improve the oral health landscape for the 60 million Americans who call rural home.

Focused on developing the next generation of rural dentists, the initiative hosted three lunch-and-learn programs at universities across the country. NRHA staff represented the National Rural Oral Health Initiative at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine, and the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine, with a successful turnout at each campus. During the lunchtime sessions, students heard from rural champions in their own dental programs about opportunities for rural training, received an introduction to NRHA and our partnership with CareQuest, and connected with dental practitioners who lived and worked in rural communities. The session concluded with time for questions, which covered state and federal loan repayment programs, work-life balance, rotation and shadowing opportunities, and more.

For the first time since 2019, the National Rural Oral Health Initiative was able to host an in-person community health worker rural oral health training. Facilitated by CHW trainer Janel Lowman, the training was hosted in Mobile, Ala., in early December and brought together 29 CHWs from across southwestern Alabama to increase their knowledge about oral health. NRHA was excited to have Alabama Dental Director Tommy Johnson present on rural oral health in Alabama and answer questions throughout the training. Twenty-seven of the 29 CHWs who attended had no previous training in oral health and left feeling empowered and better equipped to care for their community.

As we close 2023, NRHA is happy to announce the release of two new rural oral health-focused topic papers. The topics and papers were selected and developed by the National Rural Oral Health Initiative Task Force members, who are leaders in rural oral health from across the country. The topic papers focus on veterans oral health and dental integration into primary care. These and previous topic papers are available on the National Rural Oral Health Initiative webpage.

Finally, the National Rural Oral Health Initiative engaged in a new communication strategy by speaking directly to potential rural oral health consumers. NRHA addressed rural Nevadans about rural oral health through an op-ed published in the Nevada Independent, which focuses on ways to improve the rural oral health workforce in Nevada. 

NRHA would like to thank the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health for their support to improve oral health in rural areas. We encourage you to contact Piper Martin, Zil Joyce Dixon Romero, or Laura Hudson.