Kentucky Oral Health Coalition members and oral health stakeholders from across the state convened virtually for the 2020 Kentucky Oral Health Coalition annual meeting on Friday, December 11. We kicked off the meeting with a message from our sponsor, Avesis, about dental coverage updates as it relates to Manage Care Organization plans (MCO). Dr. Julie McKee, the Kentucky state dental director, provided updates about dental care in Kentucky during the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The meeting featured an outstanding national speaker, Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, president and CEO of the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement and Catalyst Institute. Dr. Minter-Jordan spoke about race equity in oral health. Her highlighted inequities we see across the nation due to systemic racism and examples of racism in healthcare. Dr. Minter-Jordan provided action steps that can be taken to begin changing our system by utilizing data and ensuring oral health is included in policy considerations, continued research, monitoring, and surveillance to create a more equitable healthcare landscape and nation.

Mahak Kalra, Chief Policy Director at Kentucky Youth Advocates (KYA), presented legislative and budget policies of interest to KOHC members. KOHC is supportive of the Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children health policy and budget priorities, including allowing local and county governments to make decisions about tobacco control measures to curb youth use, promoting student success, health, safety, and well-being, sustaining funding in Medicaid and KCHIP, and investing in home-visitation and safety net programs. KOHC is also supportive of maintaining community water fluoridation programs in Kentucky. Learn more about the 2021 Blueprint agenda and find resources. We also heard from KYA’s Chief Engagement Officer, Jessie Whitish, about the upcoming Children’s Advocacy Week and how advocates can get involved.

Alicia Whatley, Policy and Advocacy Analyst at KYA reflected on the work KOHC accomplished in 2020 including COVID-19 response and virtual convenings throughout the year. Alicia Whatley also gave updates on oral health projects KOHC has worked on this year including efforts to equip oral health professionals with the tools to recognize and report signs of abuse and neglect, and a landscape assessment of beliefs around children’s oral health, plus solutions to improve children’s oral health in Kentucky. Mara Powell, Chief Communications Officer at KYA provided updates around KOHC’s media presence and growing online engagements with oral health stakeholders.

Mahak Kalra facilitated member voting to establish the policy priorities the Coalition will support in 2021 and to confirm the KOHC steering committee members. The 2021 KOHC steering committee members are Dr. Stephanie Poynter as chair and Jennifer Hasch, Leah Smothers, Dr. Julie McKee, Dr. Pam Van Arsdall, and Dr. Justin Whitney as members.

Thank you to Avesis and the DentaQuest Partnership for sponsoring this annual meeting!