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Valley’s Spanish-speakers lack oral health information

The Central Valley Health Policy Institute has found that Spanish-speaking Latinos are less informed on oral health than people that speak English.

The report is a result of DentaQuest Foundation’s grassroots engagement initiative. The initiative is aimed at supporting change in network development and oral health systems.

In the institute’s report, “Oral Health Barriers for California’s San Joaquin Valley Underserved and Vulnerable Populations,” the findings determined that three factors had the largest impact on a subject’s knowledge of oral health: insurance type, language and the location of the survey.

The institute reached out to 700 Valley residents to ask them about their perceptions and knowledge on oral health. The data was collected from a variety of clinics, health fairs and health centers.

When it came to Spanish-speaking Latinos, they were less knowledgeable on oral health regardless of their type of insurance.

“This shows that the lack of knowledge of what is bad for your dental health is not a problem of having public insurance, but of a lack of culturally, linguistically and age appropriate dental health information,” said Dr. Marlene Bengiaman, research director of the institute.

Bengiaman added that 53 percent of Fresno is Latino, and that 34 percent of them are Spanish monolingual.

Moving forward, the goal of the institute is to implement oral health into the curriculum of “promotoras,” Hispanic community members who provide health education. It plans to showcase their findings in several communities, so the community can offer recommendations. It will also contact dentists to figure out their needs.

The institute hopes these results will start a dialogue about oral health in the Central Valley. It has partnered with the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network to hold a forum.

The “California Oral Health Network Regional Convening” is meant to bring oral health advocates, state policy experts and grassroot organizations together. The institute plans to hold several forums to allow feedback from community members and advocates alike.