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Ambul Pediatr. 2002 Mar-Apr;2(2 Suppl):180-4.

Strategic communications in oral health: influencing public and professional opinions and actions.

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  • 1Trust for America's Health, Washington, DC 20005, USA.


In the spring of 2000, US Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher convened a meeting of national experts to recommend strategies to promote equity in children's oral health status and access to dental care. The meeting was planned by a diverse group of health professionals, researchers, educators, and national organizations and by several federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Center on Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health. This paper was commissioned by the meeting planners to introduce basic principles of social marketing and strategic communications. Many participants were academic researchers, practicing pediatric dentists and pediatricians, dental educators, policy analysts, and industry representatives, and most had no previous experience with public education or communications campaigns. Other participants were communications professionals, journalists, and community organizers without previous experience in oral health care or financing issues. Thus, the paper also served to introduce and illustrate basic ideas about oral health and general health, racial and ethnic disparities in health, and access to care. Through their interactions, the participants developed a series of recommendations to increase public awareness, build public support, improve media coverage, improve care coordination, expand the workforce, and focus the attention of national, state, and local policymakers on legislative and financing initiatives to expand access to dental care. Future coalitions of health professionals working with the policy, research, advocacy, and business communities may find this paper useful in implementing the action steps identified by the Surgeon General's report, "Oral Health in America."

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