I was recently interviewed on the radio show Native America Calling, which is a Native American radio show, about a topic that I care deeply about, which is the unmet dental treatment needs in Native American and rural Alaskan communities.
I am a faculty member in the Centers for American Indian Alaska Native Health (CNOHR), part of the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado.The CNOHR conducts research aimed at developing culturally acceptable and effective strategies to prevent infectious oral diseases in American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations.
In this interview, I talk about new approaches to providing dental care to people living in remote native communities. For example, on one reservation we studied, there are only three Indian Health Service dental clinics and nine dentists for an area of more than 3,000 square miles — an area larger than Connecticut.
To address this tremendous need, I advocate the expansion of dental health aid therapist program currently operating in native villages in Alaska. People from isolated communities are trained for two years and return home to provide basic dental services in their home town and nearby villages. I feel this approach would be beneficial not only to Native American communities, but other underserved rural and inner city communities in the rest of the U.S.
A good source of additional information on this issue is the W.K. Kellogg Foundation website.
Native America Calling is a live call-in program linking public radio stations, the Internet and listeners together in a thought-provoking national conversation about issues specific to Native communities. Each program engages noted guests and experts with callers throughout the United States and is designed to improve the quality of life for Native Americans. Native America Calling is heard on 52 stations in the United States and in Canada by approximately 500,000 listeners each week.