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Education in Dentistry®
Exploring the Relationship Between Oral Health and Systemic Health Within the African American Population
African American dentists have historically focused their attention on improving health by addressing relationships between oral and systemic diseases. In fact, Clifton O. Dummett, Sr., in his recently published book entitled, “NDA II: The Story of America’s Second National Dental Association,” describes the evolution of African American physicians, dentists, and pharmacists bonding together under one organizational umbrella to enhance the health of African Americans.
The coming together of these health professionals was partially due to discrimination, prejudice, and racism, and resulted in a multidisciplinary approach to health care delivery. Because they were forced to work together, many of their clinical, behavioral, economic, and public health decisions influenced both oral and systemic health outcomes. Many of the patients whom African American health care providers served, and continue to serve, did not have full geographic and economic access to advances in health care. Thus, a multidisciplinary approach by African American health care providers was necessary to navigate through the maze of the health delivery system. Unfortunately many of the same challenges still exist.
This special issue of The Compendium includes the proceedings from a December 2000 symposium entitled, “Enhancing the Oral and Systemic Health of the African American Population.” The symposium, held at Howard University, was cosponsored by Howard University College of Dentistry, Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry, the National Dental Association Foundation (NDAF), the National Dental Association, Inc. (NDA), the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), and the Colgate-Palmolive Company. The purpose of the symposium was to discuss how to ensure that African Americans and other underserved populations benefit equitably from research addressing the associations between oral and systemic diseases.
Researchers, educators, clinicians, and students from across the United States gathered to learn about the most current evidence linking oral and systemic diseases, dysfunctions, and disabilities. They also discussed strategies to ensure that African Americans and other underserved populations will be included, from the outset, in all public and private efforts to improve oral and systemic health. Some scientists believe that the approach is new. From years of clinical experiences, however, African American health professionals view this strategy as a “renewed paradigm” at best.
As President of the National Dental Association Foundation, I am very proud to have hosted the symposium. We are grateful to NIDCR and the Colgate-Palmolive Company for joining the NDA/NDAF in cosponsoring the symposium, and very pleased that The Compendium has published the proceedings. The symposium was extremely well attended, and the distribution of this edition of The Compendium will further the knowledge base about oral and systemic health and oral and systemic diseases. Hopefully, additional partnerships will be established with others who are committed to eliminating the health disparities between diverse populations in the United States and abroad.
Roosevelt Brown, DDS
National Dental Association Foundation