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When people align around shared political, social, economic or environmental values, and take collective action, thinking and behavior that compromises the lives of millions of people around the world can truly change. —Simon Mainwaring


Overview

Through the DentaQuest Foundation Oral Health 2020 effort and the Midwest Collaborative Initiative, Oral Health Kansas, Michigan Oral Health Coalition and Wisconsin Oral Health Coalition have done just that as they endeavor to reinvent oral health. Through funding by the Foundation, the Michigan Oral Health Coalition strives to align national, state and local partners into a formal network. Success was achieved by developing a community network model that created local oral health coalitions throughout the state of Michigan that worked to improve the oral health of children and adults through new ideas, activism and leadership.

In 2015 to further the DentaQuest Foundation’s initial investment, a partnership was created between Michigan and the Kansas and Wisconsin state oral health coalitions to create a tri-state movement of innovation, advocacy and leadership to eradicate dental disease by 2020. This partnership formally connects the local stakeholders to the state and national stakeholders—ultimately making them a network for change within each state, as well as the region. Kansas, Michigan and Wisconsin are ideal partners. As the collective voice of oral health in their respective states, each has a broad circle of influence among traditional and non-traditional stakeholders and has facilitated consensus-based support around State Oral Health Plans, advocacy and policy work.

Combined, the three state oral health coalitions advocate for 18.6 million Americans in a politically conservative environment. Adding to this challenge, 116 counties are HRSA-designated dental health professional shortage areas among the three states. In 2016, nineteen local oral health coalitions tackled these difficulties to advocate for specific population groups with unique oral health issues in their communities. The connection they have to other coalitions within the tri-state network continues to strengthen their efforts. Each of the three state coalitions include a diverse leadership and membership which represent education, providers, government, community, third party payers, policy, higher/professional education and the general public who are eager to link together by sharing their ideas and expertise.

One definition of oral health maintains that oral health contributes positively to physical, mental and social well-being and the enjoyment of life’s possibilities, by allowing the individual to speak, eat and socialize unhindered by pain, discomfort or embarrassment. A core principle of the Initiative is that everyone should be able to attain a state of oral health that will enable them to enjoy a healthy and full life. On the following pages, we share our accomplishments that have been helping us move toward this principle and the current environment as it relates to the bold, shared goals to be achieved by 2020.

Work continues in the state and regional network! Kansas, Michigan and Wisconsin are striving to bring about lasting systems change through the power of collective action.