Delta Dental of Arizona, in partnership with the Delta Dental Institute, announced Driving Greater Diversity in the Oral Health Workforce, a new campaign to help increase the number of oral health professionals from historically underrepresented groups.

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While racial and ethnic diversity among health professionals is linked to improved outcomes and greater health equity, the current oral health workforce does not reflect the changing demographics of the U.S. population.

“As part of our mission to provide a path to better health and wellness, it is imperative to investigate alternative ways to reduce the challenges associated with poor outcomes and restricted access. Facilitating a more diverse workforce is another mechanism to accomplish this objective”, says Michael Jones, president and chief executive officer of Delta Dental of Arizona.

The Delta Dental Institute’s campaign will drive toward a more diverse oral health workforce by establishing the Delta Dental Oral Health Diversity Fund, and by supporting initiatives in oral health education, research, and community investment.

The Driving Greater Diversity in the Oral Health Workforce campaign will:

Establish the Delta Dental Oral Health Diversity Fund: In its first year, the Delta Dental Oral Health Diversity Fund will make targeted investments of up to $1 million in comprehensive solutions, innovative pilots, and scalable models that inspire school-aged children from historically underrepresented groups to pursue a career in oral health.

Support oral health higher education: Delta Dental will continue its investment in the future of the oral health workforce through the funding of scholarships and infrastructure at minority serving institutions. Since 2018, Delta Dental has invested nearly $50 million in college and university programs. In addition, in 2021, Delta Dental supported scholarships, grants, and other workforce development opportunities that benefited more than 147,000 people, many from historically underrepresented groups.

Propel new research: The Delta Dental Institute has sponsored the Harvard School of Dental Medicine’s new research on the oral health workforce. As published in the latest edition of JAMA Health Forum, lead researcher, Dr. Sung Eun Choi, SM, PhD, finds that expanding the dental workforce in oral health professional shortage areas through the National Health Services Corps would reduce the burden of dental caries among children in underserved areas and is cost-effective.

Engage with our communities: Delta Dental will continue its focus on supporting historically underrepresented groups by conducting outreach to students of all ages to elevate the importance of oral health to overall health and to introduce the possibility of a career in the oral health professions.

“In looking locally, in 2022 alone, Delta Dental of Arizona was proud to serve as a presenting sponsor of the National Dental Association’s 2022 Health Now community outreach event. We also sponsored 16 public health providers and 38 diverse dental students to attend the 2022 National Dental Association in Phoenix,” says Jones. “We were also a major sponsor of the 2nd Diversity in Dentistry Youth Summit, which hosted 50 middle and high school students from Tucson Unified School District at A.T. Still University in Mesa.”

According to Jones, during the Summit, students from historically underrepresented groups come to make an impact on the diversity in dentistry, and the event provides students with hands-on experience in the lab, shadowing, classroom work, and a final ceremony.

For those interested in applying to the Delta Dental Oral Health Diversity Fund and learning more about this campaign, please visit Eligible applicants must be based in the United States, and may include 501(c)3 organizations, private businesses, or limited or general partnerships.