Washington—The Association introduced a strategic action plan to improve health literacy in dentistry Nov. 16 at a forum co-hosted by the ADA, American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics.

The plan developed by the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations and introduced by Dr. A.J. Smith, ADA first vice president, defines health literacy in dentistry as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate oral health decisions.”

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, Hispanic Dental Association and National Dental Association also participated in the meeting at the American Medical Association offices on Capitol Hill.

“I don’t want to see the enthusiasm we’ve seen at this meeting lost,” Dr. Smith said in wrapping up this initial forum of leading professional and public health groups interested in improving health literacy. “We need to be partnering with all of you, and we need to keep this group going.”

A Department of Health and Human Services senior official, Howard Koh, M.D., M.P.H., assistant secretary for health, summarized a national action plan to improve health literacy released earlier this year by the HHS Office of the Secretary and invited feedback “from your organizations on what works and what works well.”

CAPIR and its ad hoc advisory committee on health literacy in dentistry developed the strategic action plan as a set of principles, goals and, in some cases, specific strategies to provide guidance to the Association and its councils and commissions, dental professionals, policy makers and others to improve health literacy.

The ADA action plan identifies five strategic focus areas for the improvement of health literacy:

* Training and education;
* Advocacy;
* Research;
* Dental practice;
* Building coalitions (increase collaborations).

“The council realizes that these activities will require resources, financial and human, and believes the strategies should be viewed as suggested tasks to improve health literacy and not a prescriptive ‘to do’ list,” the ADA plan says.