A Pilot Study of Integration of Medical and Dental Care in 6 States
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A Pilot Study of Integration of Medical and Dental Care in 6 States

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      Prev Chronic Dis
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      Introduction Poor oral health affects overall health. Chronic diseases and related risk factors such as tobacco use or consuming sugar-sweetened beverages can also increase a person’s risk of periodontitis. Given the linkages between oral health and certain chronic diseases, we conducted a pilot study to facilitate intradepartmental collaborations between state chronic disease and oral health programs. Methods State health departments in 6 states (Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, and New York) collaborated to develop and implement projects that addressed oral health and the following chronic diseases or risk factors: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and tobacco use. States developed various projects, including media campaigns, clinical education, and screening and referrals. We used a mixed-methods approach to understand barriers to and facilitators of states’ increasing collaboration and implementation of pilot projects. In-depth interviews were conducted with 12 staff (1 from oral health and 1 from chronic disease for each state). We also reviewed state-submitted documents and performance measures. Results All 6 states increased collaboration between their oral health and chronic disease programs and successfully implemented pilot projects. Collaboration was facilitated by investing in relationships, championing medical–dental integration, and meeting and communicating frequently. Barriers to collaboration included the perception of oral health in chronic disease programs as separate and distinct from other chronic diseases and the structure of funding. The pilot projects were facilitated by partner support, providing technical assistance to clinics, and working early on referral networks. Barriers to implementing the pilot projects included gaining clinician buy-in and establishing referral networks. Conclusion This pilot study demonstrated that by fostering collaboration, state health departments are able to train dental and medical clinicians, deliver clinical preventive education to patients, implement referral systems, and deliver impressions via media campaigns.
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