Are "Dental Enterprise Zones" Ready to, as Dentists Say, Open Wide?

Initiation of a multi-site program to expand dental care access in high-poverty communities

In March 1997, Oral Health America (OHA) began planning a five-year program intended to establish at least 20 new model dental practices in underserved and impoverished communities across America.

OHA has a 30-year history of developing educational and action programs to prevent and treat dental disease. OHA's Dental Enterprise Zone™ National Demonstration Program was the first community-based initiative to attack the long-standing problem of limited dental access through a coordinated effort of public, private, and voluntary resources at the national and local levels.

Objectives for the planning year were to appoint a national advisory committee; to publish a "white paper" assessing barriers to oral health access and recommending strategies for the Dental Enterprise Zone (DEZ) model; to develop a detailed implementation plan with criteria for selecting participating sites; and to build a financial base for the implementation phase.

Key Results

  • OHA formed a national Dental Enterprise Zone Committee and two subcommittees with members representing corporate, public health and private dental practice concerns.
  • A comprehensive review of the oral health care access challenge was presented in Oral Health America White Paper: Access to Oral Health Services in the United States 1997 and Beyond.
  • Project staff developed a detailed plan for implementing the Dental Enterprise Zone on a national level.

Funding

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported this project with a grant of $50,000 from March 1997 to August 1998.

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