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Celeste Maglan Peralta
UCLA Center for Health Policy Research
Oral health plays a vital role in overall health status and has been linked to chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, yet it is often overlooked as a critical health issue. For Californians who have low incomes, access to care is a challenge. Education, where people live, race/ethnicity, age, English language proficiency, immigration status, and other determinants of oral health can play a significant role in oral health status, according to a new study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR).
Dr. Nadereh Pourat, UCLA CHPR Associate Director and Director of the Health Economics and Evaluation Research Program, walks through findings from several studies she's conducted on factors that contribute to or improve disparities in oral health status and access to dental care.
For example, a third of the 39.5 million people living in California have low incomes, and face continued challenges in accessing oral health care. A high proportion ─ 39% ─ reported having fair or poor oral health status and 41% reported not having visited the dentist in the past year, according to one of the studies that uses 2019 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) data. A heightened demand for services and a short supply of dentists who see Medi-Cal patients also play a role in why low-income California adults are having difficulties in meeting their dental care needs.
A professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Pourat will highlight several policy recommendations on policies that can improve access to dental care and improve oral health outcomes for California’s most disadvantaged communities. These include promoting the availability of affordable dental insurance options, including dental care as an essential health benefit, advancing policies to fund services for Medi-Cal related treatments, expanding on pipeline education programs to attract a workforce to serve in low-income neighborhoods, and more.