Lack of access to preventive oral health care for people of all ages remains a public health challenge, but potentially promising workforce innovations are being used across the country to address this problem. In most cases, however, these innovations do not yet have robust outcome data demonstrating their impact on access to care or oral health status.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) conducted the Systematic Screening and Assessment of Workforce Innovations in the Provision of Preventive Oral Health Services to identify the models that show promise in increasing access to oral health services. This initiative was a collaborative effort to conduct evaluability assessments (EAs) by RWJF and consultant ICF International between December 2011 and May 2013. The purpose of the EAs, or pre-evaluations, was to determine what workforce programs, interventions, policies, and models were ready for a rigorous evaluation to assess their effectiveness in increasing access to care and prevention of oral disease.
The program released a series of oral health reports that examined 25 programs that addressed barriers to preventive oral health services with solutions in non-traditional, community, and mobile settings. The team examined programs that address socioeconomic, cultural, and geographic barriers to care; provide care in schools, Head Start sites, and senior centers; and offer preventive oral health care for infants and toddlers.
To overcome barriers to access, innovative use of a well-trained, non-traditional workforce must be combined with strategies that re-engage populations with a history of poor access.