In 1990, a collaborative effort formed between the University of Louisville School of Dentistry and the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry known as the Kentucky Oral Health Consortium. The Consortium, eventually renamed the Kentucky Dental Health Coalition, was involved in numerous oral health promotion projects such as the development of the Kentucky Smile Curriculum which is still used by Kentucky school teachers, active legislative advocacy, the National Governor’s Association Policy Academy on Children’s Oral Health (2001), the Kentucky Oral Health Surveys (for children, adults and elders from 2001-2003) and many more.
While the Coalition became inactive in 2006, a steering committee of diverse stakeholders came together in 2010 to plan for the reinvigoration of the Coalition. Now called the Kentucky Oral Health Coalition (KOHC), the newly revitalized group is staffed by Kentucky Youth Advocates. The first coalition meeting held in March 2012 had over 70 in attendance. The group is moving forward to tackle key priorities and make a true impact in Kentucky.
- Created a “Big Tent” of diverse people from all over Kentucky to work on improving oral health and regularly convenes folks to create systemic policy change.
- Expanded the Kentucky utilization of Smiles for Life Curriculum – this means over 250 health professionals now know their role in oral health.
- Worked to pass legislation to expand school based health services with SB 159.
- Advocated for inclusion of specific oral health policy changes in the kyhealthnow initiative and the state’s chronic disease plan.
- Brought in more than half a million dollars to Kentucky to improve oral health for all and used this as leverage for local funding.
- Grown the membership 130 percent since 2010.
- Created resources for stakeholders in Kentucky such as infographics, web site, social media channels and a report on school-based services.
- Connected with national movements to improve oral health and acts as a leader in building a nationwide network.
- Built working relationships with the Kentucky Dental Association, Kentucky Dental Hygiene Association, the Kentucky Oral Health Research Network, the Kentucky Oral Health Program and managed care organizations, as well as many other influencers and decision-makers from across Kentucky and the U.S.
Lacey McNary is with McNary and Associates in Louisville, Ky.