According to a new report entitled Taking a Bite Out of Health Inequities: Promoting Equitable Oral Health Policies in Communities of Color» (CPEHN, 2016), the State of California has more dentists per capita compared to other states. However, the state ranks worst in the nation in oral health disparity between poor and affluent communities. Of the nearly 15,000 licensed dentists in California, “only 14% work in community clinics, which are generally located in underserved areas and serve low income communities of color” (CPEHN, 2016, 7).
In January 2016, in collaboration with the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network» (CPEHN), Nile Sisters conducted two oral health needs assessment workshops for refugees and immigrants in the San Diego region. The goal was to evaluate the participants’ understanding of oral health and dental coverage as well as to determine potential barriers to accessing equitable dental care. This is part of a statewide effort by community-based initiatives to assess the needs of low socioeconomic groups. Publication of an evaluative report of collected workshop data will follow.
Refugees and immigrants participating in the Nile Sisters workshops represented five countries, including Burma, Congo, Haiti, Mexico, and Somalia. Fifty percent of the participants self-identify as Asian, 21% self-identify as Caribbean, and 14% self-identify as African and Hispanic / Latino, respectively. Seventy nine percent of the workshop participants were female. More than 50% of the participants have dental insurance through Medi-Cal. Although all participants agree that oral health is an integral part of maintaining overall good health, a majority do not visit a dentist frequently, for a variety of reasons.
Initial analysis reveals lack of transportation, financial burdens associated with dental health care, and limited English proficiency as barriers to accessing preventive care. The two oral health needs assessment workshops established that, within the refugee and immigrant communities, culturally and linguistically proficient services are needed in order to provide an equitable dental health care system.
Nile Sisters gratefully acknowledges CPEHN for funding this project.
Nile Sisters African oral health assessment workshop participants
Nile Sisters Burmese oral health assessment workshop participants