January 26, 2023

The biggest problems facing Colorado are complex and multifaceted. To solve complex problems such as housing affordability, child care access and the costs of health care, we must start by identifying root causes. Our success then depends on our ability to understand and be honest about what the data is telling us. Community leaders must come together to develop a shared language, purpose and vision to achieve sustainable solutions.
Delta Dental of Colorado believes in the power of philanthropy to understand the inequities in our system and help both the company and the foundation drive systemic change so that all Coloradoans can have a healthy smile. Our collective missions are focused on Colorado being the best state for oral health care in the nation.
In 2021, the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation (DDCOF) organized our mission-advancing efforts into three initiatives inspired by the root causes of oral health inequity in Colorado. These three initiatives — prevention, place-based access to care and workforce development — guide the foundation’s policy priorities, civic engagement and grantmaking efforts. Identifying these initiatives has allowed us to maximize our impact in communities across the state.
One of these initiatives, place-based access to care, addresses the barriers to access and utilization of quality oral health care for communities experiencing high rates of poverty. The goal of this initiative is to create a community-led, data-driven strategy that helps all individuals secure accessible, affordable and comprehensive oral health care.
In a conversation on the value of these strategies, Delta Dental of Colorado Place-Based Program Officer Arden Trewartha explained the purpose behind the initiative.
“The intention is to convene a place-based community to learn with and from grant partners about what works in promoting accessible, affordable and comprehensive oral health care,” Trewartha said. “We’re working with various populations in multiple settings so that our outcomes can be replicated around the state.”
Informed by data collected by DDCOF, the place-based initiative focuses on two Colorado regions — the San Luis Valley and Northeast Denver. In the San Luis Valley, only 58% of people visited a dentist in the past 12 months, compared to 74% statewide. Here in Denver County, 14% of residents live at or below the federal poverty level (FPL). We know that low-income people experience increased barriers to accessing oral health care, with only 64% of people living below 100% FPL visiting a dentist in the last year.*
Grant recipients in these regions are creatively increasing access to oral health services for their communities. La Puente Home, a 2021 DDCO grantee, provides food, shelter and advocacy for community members in crisis and people experiencing homelessness in Alamosa, Colorado. To establish a continuum of care and support for their community members, La Puente integrated oral health care into its crisis case management system.
Once integrated into the system, La Puente worked with oral health care providers in the San Luis Valley to provide education on how oral health practitioners can provide trauma-informed care to community members who are transitioning out of homelessness. The integrated system ensures access to place-based, trauma-informed care for people who are often overlooked in the oral health care field.
It’s a strategy that’s replicable. Supporting this work moves the needle toward achieving oral health equity in the state of Colorado.
“A critical aspect of place-based work is that it is community-driven,” Trewartha said. “Grassroots organizations like La Puente know the issues and the barriers, but they also know the solutions. If they engage in the envisioning and imagining, more community members can receive the care they need in the way they need it.”
By identifying the root cause, in this case the lack of access to place-based care, we are better able to invest in community-informed, long-lasting solutions. Alongside grantees and partner organizations, the foundation is getting communities across the state closer to achieving oral health equity.
Good Works Colorado is brought to you by Delta Dental of Colorado, a nonprofit dental insurance company dedicated to making Colorado better through Mile High Smile Power™ — the investments we make to deliver on our mission of improving the oral health of the communities we serve. Our Smile Power is amplified by fellow companies dedicated to being strong corporate citizens like those named to the Civic 50 Colorado, the 50 most community-minded small, medium, and large companies in Colorado as determined by True Impact’s adapted national Civic 50 survey.
*According to Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation
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