More than 50 members from the nation’s academic dental and research community attended the American Dental Education Association (ADEA)/American Association for Dental Research (AADR) Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill on April 8. Significantly, ADEA members had more than 75 meetings with members of Congress and/or their staffs to advocate for the training of today’s oral health workforce and investment in science and research for improved oral health.
ADEA and AADR constituents advocated for several Congressional priorities. They asked members of Congress to appropriate $32.4 million in FY15 for primary care training in General, Pediatric and Public Health Dentistry under Title VII Health Professions programs and to adequately fund the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) at $425 million. Training programs, under Title VII, Section 748 of the Public Health Service Act, use federal funds to train general, pediatric and public health dentists and dental hygienists through loans, loan guarantees and scholarship programs. Title VII programs also provide grants and contracts to academic dental institutions and nonprofit organizations to improve opportunities for underrepresented students to seek careers in oral health care. NIDCR-funded research yields new discoveries that lead to more effective treatments that prevent dental disease and improve overall health. Sufficient funding for NIDCR is needed to maintain the United States’ role as a leader of high-quality health and dental research. NIDCR is the only federal entity with a research mission to eradicate oral diseases, conduct craniofacial research and improve oral health.
Prior to the Congressional meetings, ADEA members gathered in the morning to hear from elected officials from both sides of the aisle, as well as remarks on the budget and appropriations landscape. The speakers also overviewed oral health legislation currently pending or soon to be introduced in Congress.
Reps. Mike Simpson (R-ID), Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and G. K. Butterfield (D-NC), all members of the Oral Health Caucus, provided remarks. Erica Solway, a Senior Advisor, provided remarks on behalf of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Dr. Lily Garcia, Chair of the ADEA Board of Directors, offered remarks on achieving good oral and systemic health. She reminded ADEA constituents of the real-life impact their advocacy has on local communities. Seven years ago in Prince George’s County, MD, 12-year-old Deamonte Driver died because he did not have dental insurance or Medicaid coverage and could not afford an $80 tooth extraction that could have saved his life.
Dr. Garcia emphasized the power constituents have in these meetings. “Members of Congress will hear directly from you about programs that affect our profession: programs that have the ability to improve access to oral health care, and programs that have the ability to fund research that can change people’s lives,” she said.
She pointed out that past Advocacy Day events resulted in the successful adoption of pediatric dental benefits in the Affordable Care Act. As a result, pediatric oral health coverage is now considered one of 10 essential health benefits in the Affordable Care Act.
Kathryn G. Schubert, from the Coalition for Health Funding, congratulated those in attendance for working together in groups because, as she said, rising tides lift all boats. She also underscored the importance of dental education and research. Ms. Schubert also provided an overview of the budget climate and funding priorities for non-defense discretionary spending, which largely fund federal programs impacting academic dentistry and dental and craniofacial research.
In addition, Dr. Martha Somerman, Director of NIDCR, highlighted dental and craniofacial research programs at NIH; Dr. Renee Joskow, Senior Dental Advisor at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), offered a summary of HRSA’s workforce and primary dental care programs.
Photos from the 2014 ADEA/AADR Advocacy Day are available on Facebook.
For a summary of recent federal legislative and regulatory news about oral health, dental education and dental research, read the ADEA Washington Update.
Keep up with recent state legislative and regulatory news about oral health, dental education and dental research in your state with the ADEA State Update.