ALBERTSON, N.Y.–()–Project Accessible Oral Health at The Viscardi Center, a global public-private partnership that aims to improve access to oral healthcare and improve the overall health of the disability community, recently held its annual summit and “First Steps” awards ceremony as it continues to advance the conversation around fostering culturally competent oral healthcare for people with disabilities.

The summit, “Champions for Oral Healthcare in the Disability Community,” took place June 17-18 in Philadelphia, bringing together dental and medical professionals, educators, policymakers, people with disabilities, caregivers, and other stakeholders. The event kicked off with an awards ceremony at The Study at University City highlighting the groundbreaking work of four honorees:

  • AmeriHealth Caritas/Keystone First were recognized for creating a new dental insurance plan specifically to address the needs of people with disabilities, and for committing to train its providers to competently and confidently treat its plan members. The honorees were inspired to create the plan by the inaugural Project Accessible Oral Health conference in 2017.
  • The University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and Temple University’s Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry were each honored for their commitment to treating people with disabilities, and ensuring that future generations of dentists are taught how to address the oral health needs of the disability community.
  • The ADA Foundation was honored for its recent ADA Foundation Challenge, which raised awareness of the oral health access issues facing people with disabilities among thousands of American Dental Association members.

Throughout the rest of the event, which took place at the The University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, attendees discussed progress that has been made since Project Accessible Oral Health’s inception in 2017 and celebrated individuals who have led efforts to improve access to care around the world. Panel discussions explored ongoing oral health challenges facing the disability community, and keynote speaker Neil Romano, Chairman of the National Council on Disability, spoke to attendees about the responsibility each of them must take to ensure that dental practices are accessible and oral health professionals are trained to meet the unique needs of people with disabilities.

For a closer look at the issues discussed during the event, please watch this video interview featuring Steve Kess, Vice President of Global Professional Relations at Henry Schein, Inc., and Dr. Larry Paul, Vice President of Corporate Dental for AmeriHealth Caritas, as they discuss “A New Approach to Oral Health Care for People with Special Needs.” The interview is part of #scheinchats, Henry Schein’s signature social media series.

“We have made tremendous progress in just two short years, and it is rewarding to be joined by colleagues who want to continue driving change that improves the oral health, and overall health, of this most deserving community,” said Barbie Vartanian, Executive Director, Project Accessible Oral Health at The Viscardi Center. “Throughout this year’s event, colleagues exchanged best practices, shared challenges, and embraced the opportunity to build on our successes. We thank the attendees for their enthusiasm and we look forward to next year’s event.”

About Project Accessible Oral Health

Under The Viscardi Center’s network of 501(c)(3) organizations, Project Accessible Oral Health is a global public-private partnership and the first to nationally assemble and connect a consortium of dental and medical professionals, corporations, organizations, policymakers, educators, people with disabilities, caregivers, and other stakeholders in pursuit of equal access to culturally competent oral healthcare. The Project’s mission is to act as a collective catalyst for change that will not only improve access to oral healthcare, but also ultimately improve the overall health of the disability community. Project Accessible Oral Health’s founders include John D. Kemp, President and CEO of The Viscardi Center, Steve W. Kess, Vice President of Global Professional Relations, Henry Schein, Inc. and Co-Founder of Henry Schein Cares and Dr. Mark Wolff, Morton Amsterdam Dean at Penn Dental Medicine. Learn more at ProjectAccessibleOralHealth.org.

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