The National Institutes of Health will award 10 research grants aimed at eliminating inequities in access to care and improving the oral health of children. Totaling more than $7 million in first-year funding, the awards support the Multidisciplinary and Collaborative Research Consortium to Reduce Oral Health Disparities in Children, a new initiative of NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR).
“By establishing this research consortium, NIDCR seeks to lead national efforts in reducing childhood oral health disparities,” said NIDCR Director Martha J. Somerman, D.D.S., Ph.D. “Among the projects awarded are those that test innovative health promotion and disease prevention strategies and evaluate and refine existing programs and policies.”
Children from certain racial and ethnic groups or from families with low levels of education and income are far more likely than other children to develop oral diseases, including tooth decay. In March 2015, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that Hispanic/Latino children and black children are about twice as likely as white children to have untreated tooth decay in primary teeth. NIDCR’s previous investments established the Centers for Research to Reduce Disparities in Oral Health, which gave rise to a cadre of dedicated oral health disparities researchers. Their community-based investigations illuminated the complex social and behavioral determinants of oral health disparities and inequities.
“Research has shown that individual-level approaches alone are not sufficient to reduce rates of tooth decay and other oral diseases,” said NIDCR Health Disparities Research Program Director Ruth Nowjack-Raymer, Ph.D., R.D.H., M.P.H. “Therefore, the consortium’s research projects will involve holistic, population health and other approaches to take decisive action against oral health disparities at multiple levels of influence, such as families, neighborhoods, and healthcare systems.”