Latino Oral Health Collaborative

"My wish is that everyone in our community could access health care regardless of whether they have coupon or not. I want my parents, my children, and my community to be able to live healthy lives, but we also live difficult lives. We care a lot about oral health, but we haven’t been cared for enough so we get used to dealing with things like a toothache in a different way. I don’t want my children to have to do that. I’m happy they are in school and learning and can see a dentist. Now, I wish more children and families could have access to all of that."- Latino Parent, Sumas, Washington

Latino children continue to bear a disproportionate burden of oral disease in Washington. Findings from the Smile Survey 2015-2016, revealed Latino children are still experiencing higher rates of tooth decay, rampant decay, and treatment need, compared to non-Latino white children.1 This is particularly worrisome considering that nearly one in four children between the ages 0-9 in Washington is Latino.2 In 2015, in an effort to address this urgent and growing need, the Arcora Foundation initiated the Latino Children’s Oral Health Learning Collaborative with the goal to improve oral health and decrease disparities for Latino children eligible for the ABCD (Access to Baby and Child Dentistry) program. The Collaborative had three key objectives:

  • Learn about Latino families’ needs and experiences accessing oral health care services for their children and family
  • Discover and share best practices to increase access to dental care for Latino children through the ABCD program; and
  • Design and pilot tools, resources, and strategies for implementation of best practices at the local level.

Over the last two years, Collaborative members participated in a Human-Centered Design and participatory research process to accomplish these objectives. During this time, Collaborative members conducted forty-five community immersions to interview Latino families (Objective 1) as well as community health workers, dental health providers, school district employees, and representatives of community-based organizations. These community immersions also allowed Collaborative members to identify barriers as well as community strengths and opportunities to implement strategies to improve oral health outcomes for Latino children (Objective 2 & 3). Key findings in the report include the importance of immersing in the community to better understand the experiences and needs of the Latino community, increasing the availability of culturally responsive services, and the unique role ABCD programs can play to convene partners to promote cross-sector collaboration and provide continuous support to Latino families. Most importantly, this report highlights the value of empathy and the need for ABCD programs, policymakers, public health officials, and medical and dental health providers to search beyond the data and listen closely to the stories of Latino families. Each Collaborative member emphasized this was the most important lesson they wanted to highlight—empathy is a way of knowing and caring as well as an approach to successfully meet the oral health care needs of Latino children and their families.

Washington is already known as a national leader with a strong track record of implementing policies and programs to support the oral health care of children. This report highlights an opportunity for the state to listen, learn, and continue to lead by working with and for Latino families to improve oral health outcomes.

Collaborative Members:

Christina Ortiz, Connector Services Manager | Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement

Lupita Espinoza, Promotora de Salud/CHW | Chelan Douglas Health District

Jodi Ferguson, Oral Health & Preparedness Coordinator |Walla Walla County Department of Health

Carol McCormick, Nursing Director/Associate Administrator |Chelan Douglas Health District

Natalie Mills RN, Community Health Nurse II | Grays Harbor County Public Health and Social Services

Maria Vargas, Public Health Educator & Outreach Grant County Health District

Kathy O’Meara-Wyman, ABCD State Program Managing Director

ALCORA Foundation Staff:

Laura Flores, Health Equity Lead Strategist

Project Consultant:

Luis Ortega, Director & Founder of Storytellers for Change