The North Carolina Institute for Public Health, working with the support of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, published the NC Oral Health Workforce and Leadership Development Assessment. The assessment and the large-scale Oral Health Survey that followed it sought to gain a better understanding of the assets, gaps, and complexities of the NC oral health workforce, particularly from a leadership development perspective. Armed with this information, policymakers and organizations may be able to develop better leaders and, the thinking goes, influence systems change, improve practice management, bolster oral health prevention efforts and support policy changes to address the oral health problems North Carolina has dealt with for years.

A few themes emerged, including:

  • Oral health providers would welcome increased learning opportunities for themselves and their staff in practice management.
  • Formal peer networks and mentoring programs are currently limited, but in some instances there is strong peer engagement, particularly in learning from seasoned leaders in the field. While these existing networks are invaluable, there is a clear need to extend them further.
  • Younger professionals often feel overwhelmed by some of the issues they face when entering practice in high need geographic areas, and they may need additional supports to thrive in these settings for the long-term.
  • While there is interest in contributing to systems change, providers need applied learning opportunities in how to do this work and to integrate it into existing workloads. Shifting from an individual care model to population health is a new concept for many of NC’s oral health providers (as it is for other clinical professionals). Training, coaching and support to help oral health providers apply public health skills could help facilitate partnerships and guide resources to improve scale and reach.
  • Expanded access to oral health services could be supported through deeper collaborations among oral health, health care and public health. Establishing deliberate collaborations could build referral networks and provide consultative support for oral health professionals who could benefit from specialized expertise (e.g., obstetrics, behavioral health) in order to serve particularly vulnerable populations.

Read the full report here.

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