Initiative ‘borrowing’ libraries will expand access to dental care
The 2007 death of a 12-year-old boy from Prince George’s County due to complications from a dental infection shed light on how race and class play a role in people’s access to dental treatment. basic, and sometimes lifesaving. Like many across the country, Deamonte Driver’s family did not have dental insurance.
Now, a new multi-institutional project based at the University of Maryland is focused on understanding and addressing inequities in dental care by reaching patients in one of the few remaining places in the United States that are free and open. to all: public libraries.
The Narratives and Medical Education (NAME) project will place pre-doctoral dental students and dental hygiene students at six libraries in California, Indiana, Iowa and Maryland, including the Hyattsville Public Library in the county of Prince George, to provide screenings and training to students in English. and professional writers who will use their skills to highlight the experiences of marginalized communities and seek to inform the public about issues of health access and disparities.
“Instead of underserved populations trying to find a clinic they don’t feel welcome or have access to, the idea is to bring clinicians into the local community,” said the lead researcher and director Michelle V. Moncrieffe, lecturer in the English department. “No child should die of a toothache.”
Much research links poor oral health to a range of negative physical, mental and economic impacts. Still, about 76.5 million adults, or nearly a quarter of the U.S. population, plus an unknown number of children, don’t have dental coverage, according to a study by the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health. While older Americans are most at risk of developing oral health problems, they are also the most likely to be uninsured. Communities of color are also disproportionately affected, Studies show.
The NAME project recently received a $481,232 grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research of the National Institutes of Health. This is in collaboration with researchers from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; San Francisco State University; Indiana University and the University of Iowa.
Moncrieffe, who teaches “Writing for the Health Professions” in the Professional Writing Program and serves as an advisor to the Human sciences, health and medicine minor, said the project seamlessly blends public humanities with health and medicine to shed light on the experiences of marginalized communities. Ultimately, it can help change the way dentistry is taught and practiced, she said.
“As a team, we all believe in the power of storytelling and understand the transformative nature of bringing health, dentistry, medicine and the humanities together,” Moncrieffe said. “Everyone has a story.”
The NAME project was launched earlier this month and will run for two years. The project’s first “health fairs” will be held across the country over the next six months.