THE ORAL HEALTH PARTITION: ASSESSING THE NEEDS AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR INTEGRATING ORAL HEALTH AND HYGIENE INTO EXISTING NUTRITION EDUCATION PROGRAMS FOR LOW INCOME ADULTS AND CHILDREN
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThere is a significant lack of affordable and available dental and oral care in Arizona for low-income populations, and accessing care is complex; however, oral health disparities can be alleviated through preventative programming. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is federally funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide financial benefits that supplement the food budget of eligible low-income families. SNAP Education (SNAP-Ed) programs provide the public with a variety of free and widely accessible resources focused on food literacy, nutrition, and overall health. In Arizona, the SNAP-Ed program is called AZ Health Zone, delivered by The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, in coordination with the Department of Economic Security and Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS), using competitive grant funding.1 Due to the rigid guidelines for SNAP-Ed curricula and minimal opportunities to modify the content, oral health topics are rarely addressed despite the significant health disparities in Arizona regarding dental health. 11% of Arizona’s population utilizes SNAP benefits and SNAP-Ed provides a unique opportunity to deliver integrated nutrition and oral health curricula to a wide range of Arizonans who are at risk for poor oral health outcomes.2 SNAP-Ed curricula do not currently include oral health topics but doing so could alleviate costly dental procedures. In this project, the author explores the relationships between nutrition and oral health, health promotion programming, and SNAP policy. Innovative opportunities for addressing nutrition, food literacy and oral health through integrative prevention programming are also described. The author’s work is informed by a review of relevant literature and interviews with key informants working in Southern Arizona such as dentists, Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, public health professionals, and legislators. The author receives mentoring and supervision from Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Assistant Professor of Practice in Nutritional Sciences, Ashlee Linares-Gaffer.
Degree ProgramNutritional Sciences