Effecting public policy change: Lessons learned in expanding CE options for Washington State dental hygienists

Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Pavilion Ballroom (Hilton Portland)
Patricia Brown, BA (Coordinator, University of Washington Oral Health Collaborative and Coordinator, University of Washington Oral Health Collaborative)
Norma Wells, Professor Emeritus, RDH, MPH (Founder/Supervisor, University of Washington Oral Health Collaborative)
Cindy Larson, RDH, BS (Member, University of Washington Oral Health Collaborative)
Nancy Alleman, RDH, BS (Member, University of Washington Oral Health Collaborative)
Theresa Marks, RDH, MS (Member, University of Washington Oral Health Collaborative)
While people experiencing homelessness consistently self-report a critical need for oral health care, traditional oral health service delivery systems have afforded little means of meeting this need. Community service fairs and special events offer access to care but frequently lack sufficient capacity to meet the need because the supply of professional oral health care volunteers has been limited. To address this challenge, the University of Washington Oral Health Collaborative (UWOHC) identified policy support for increasing the number of volunteers as a step toward improving access to needed care. UWOHC’s poster presentation will illustrate the practical steps taken and partnerships created to bring about a change in Washington State policy, specifically, Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 246-815-140. The requested change expands the Continuing Education (CE) options approved for licensed Registered Dental Hygienists (RDH) in the state to include participation in volunteer service delivery, thus improving access to oral health preventive care for underserved populations. The poster will address three of the topics that cohere with the conference theme, Working Together for Quality. These topics are: local and state policy initiatives aiming to improve quality of care health care delivery models that address the conditions of homelessness; ways to promote culturally appropriate care, health literacy, and numeracy; and gaining approval of the requested change-required partnership building and ongoing collaboration with the Washington State Dental Hygienists Association, Alliance of Dental Hygiene Practitioners, Washington State Department of Health, Dental Hygiene Examining Committee (DHEC), Office of the Governor, and Washington State Legislature. Background for the request included experiences with diverse Native American, immigrant, and homeless populations in which recruiting dental hygienists to deliver preventive oral health services had been an issue. The poster will present relevant detail of the steps taken by the Collaborative to request this change, to monitor its progress, and to assure its approval. In all, the process required four years, one month, and 22 days. The requested change in policy became effective on August 20, 2015. Dental hygienists in Washington State can now receive CE credit for volunteering to provide preventive oral health care in such settings as health service fairs and stand downs for veterans experiencing homelessness. The session will also contemplate next steps for improving access and capacity for delivering preventive oral health care to underserved populations through redefining the regulatory requirements for dental hygienists who provide preventive care for disabled people who are not ambulatory.