A professional collaboration has succeeded in improving access to oral health care for approximately 180,000 Navajo Nation residents across three states, with Dr. Rick Champany leading the effort, training Community Health representatives as liaisons.
As a former dental consultant to the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, Champany recently lent his expertise to the program directed at training the well-respected Community Health representatives to bring oral health awareness to the population at large.
The program was made possible by a partnership between the Navajo Nation, the Arizona American Indian Oral Health Initiative, the Arizona Dental Association and the American Dental Association's Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations.
Champany utilized the “Smiles for Life” curriculum -- endorsed by the ADA since 2012 -- to teach approximately 80 representatives. The program covered a variety of oral health topics critical to practice, including overall, child and geriatric oral health as well as tackling acute clinical dental problems.
In addition to completing course material online and in the classroom, attendants also spent time observing dental screenings. As Community Health coordinators, they learned how to apply their perspective to everyday life.
"Many Community Health representatives did not realize the extent to which oral health relates to their everyday work," Champany said. “This training may give them some insight as to the extent of their interest in pursuing more knowledge and skills in dentistry."
The training earned praise from Arizona Dental Association Executive Director Kevin Earle, who indicated that participants found it “an
amazing opportunity to raise oral health literacy … and help them
integrate that knowledge into their daily work in other Navajo Nation programs.”