What’s OHCO Up To?

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While we keep the community updated on a regular basis, we would like to take a step back for those that are new to OHCO: What do we do?

Ensuring health equity is a major focus for OHCO. The partnerships we have developed in two urban communities (Arapahoe and El Paso Counties) have been focused on increasing access, education and advocacy rather than addressing specific inequities. This is particularly true in communities of color and low-income communities where major barriers to access, such as limited insurance coverage and insufficient workforce capacity persist. We use the lessons learned from Advancing Oral Health Equity learning collaborative from the Health Care Strategies (CHCS) and other models to evaluate the impact of their work on health equity.

While OHCO’s commitment is to ensure access to comprehensive oral health care, educating about preventative oral health strategies and reducing the burden of oral disease in Colorado. OHCO develops and promotes strategies that achieve optimal oral health for all Coloradans through a variety of activities:

–          Develop and support public policy initiatives that lead to health equity

–          Educate network constituents and the public to enhance health literacy

–          Increase access to comprehensive oral health care

–          Support strategies that increase provider access

–          Share best practices in a variety of provider settings

One example of our public policy initiatives is HB17-1094 Telehealth Coverage Under Health Benefit Plans, which was signed into law on March 16th.

Previously, telehealth was not treated the same way as traditional practice. Under the new law, health benefit plans are required to cover health care services delivered to a covered person by a provider via telehealth in the same manner that the plan covers health care services delivered by a provider in person. The bill clarifies, among other things, that a health plan cannot restrict or deny coverage of telehealth services based on the communication medium used.

Our work is designed to enhance capacity to effect policy change on the local, state and federal levels with an eye toward reducing oral health disparities. OHCO’s strategy has been to weaveoral health into existing efforts that share our mission of improved health.

Take for example OHCO’s partnership with Colorado Latino, Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization (CLLARO). Through the support of our funders, we provided seed money to get this work started. The Diverse Oral Health Coalition of Aurora (DOHCA) is a collaborative of stakeholders from Aurora in business, faith, health advocacy, and community organizations focused on underserved residents of Aurora who have joined together to design a project that involves driving policy change to improve the oral health of the community. CLLARO is the lead convening organization that has to date convened over 20 active Coalition partners to implement education programming and messaging around the dangers of soda and sweetened beverages. This curriculum is geared towards parents of Pre-K students in City of Aurora preschools.

Another example of our work is Facilitative Leadership for Social Change to Strengthen Community Voices for Oral Health. In partnership with the Interactive Institute for Social Change (IISC), OHCO helped organize and recruit 15 participants per class in five rural communities (Alamosa, Craig, Cortez, Riffle and Placerville), to join the workshop.

Communities were selected based on participant interest and having certain characteristics that prioritize the need for policy change to improve oral health. We did not only provide individuals with leadership skills but fostered relationship building and collective effort to identify a community policy initiative to improve oral health in their community.

This is just a sampling of our work. I will conclude by saying that we at OHCO recognize the challenges ahead when it comes to addressing oral health inequities across Colorado; however, public will-building has made tremendous impact in the communities that we work in. Investing in advocacy and education in communities that are highly impacted, empowering people to take action, making them understand what’s in it for them, and encouraging collective impact is working. Because of OHCO’s participation in policy conversations, strong partnerships on the state level, oral health is now part of the conversation at the states Systems Integration Model(SIM) and the Program Improvement Advisory Council for Medicaid Accountable Care Collaborative (PIAC).

Interested in being a part of it all? Contact me!