New National Nonprofit Will Battle Inequity in Health Care

The CareQuest Institute for Oral Health will champion health transformation to build a future in which better health through oral health is possible for everyone.
 

Amidst a national reckoning on the deep inequities that exist across this country, a new national nonprofit organization launches today with a commitment to creating a health system that is more accessible, equitable, and connected. CareQuest Institute for Oral Health — with two billion dollars in revenues and in estimated assets — will serve as a national champion of oral health transformation, because good overall health depends on good oral health.

This new organization will amplify and expand the programming, resources, and strengths of past organizations — including the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement – to broaden its impact and move faster toward creating a health system designed for everyone. CareQuest Institute is also announcing the creation of CareQuest Innovation Partners, a for-profit affiliate dedicated to advancing innovation to transform oral health access and outcomes for underserved populations. CareQuest Innovation Partners will officially launch later this year. 

“The past year has laid bare what we knew long before the COVID-19 crisis—we have a health system that does not work for everyone because it was not built for everyone,” said Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, president and CEO of CareQuest Institute. “We cannot stand by and allow the status quo to define our future. At CareQuest Institute for Oral Health, we are putting everything we have into championing progress and solving these issues. And we will stand with anyone who shares our belief in a future where better health through oral health is possible for everyone.”

“There is no shortage of work to be done to fix our health care system and achieve one that recognizes that health care is a fundamental human right,” said Kedar Mate, MD, president and CEO at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). “Oral health is a significantly underappreciated driver of inequity in health care. That’s why I am grateful that the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health is prioritizing a focus on oral health equity. Science and knowledge can guide action, but they do not always cause action. A commitment to progress and action from organizations like CareQuest Institute will help us achieve meaningful change.”  

A recent survey conducted by CareQuest Institute highlights the urgent need for action to create a more equitable, accessible, and integrated oral health care system. Among its findings, the survey reveals that roughly 6 million adult Americans have lost their dental insurance due to a job loss or benefits change that was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, 65% of this group reported having a health symptom that often stems from an oral health disease affecting teeth, gums, or other tissues in the oral cavity. This statistic suggests that lack of dental coverage and inaccessibility of affordable care is fueling an oral health crisis.

“We cannot continue to separate the mouth from the body,” said Caswell A. Evans, Jr., DDS, MPH, emeritus professor, past associate dean for prevention and public health sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Dentistry. “Oral and systemic diseases are inextricably linked and improving patient health outcomes requires us to upend long standing barriers to health by transforming our systems of care. This is exactly the kind of work that the CareQuest Institute is focusing its collaborative energy and expertise on to address inequity in health.”

Like the COVID-19 pandemic, the oral health crisis is disproportionately impacting communities of color, those living in rural communities, people with disabilities, older adults, and other historically marginalized groups. According to CareQuest Institute’s recent survey, Black Americans suffered a loss of dental coverage at a rate that was more than double that of white Americans, while Asian Americans were three times more likely to have lost coverage.

“Oral health care, like primary care, faces serious challenges from outdated approaches to care delivery, payment, and data exchange that result in systemic barriers to optimal health for millions of people,” said Russ Phillips, MD, director of the Center for Primary Care at Harvard Medical School. “The dedicated scientists, researchers, clinicians, and public health experts at the CareQuest Institute not only offer a deep understanding of these barriers but practical solutions working with communities to advance real systems change.”

While this new data illustrates the compounding effects of the pandemic on disparities in health, these disparities are not new. Prior research has shown that Americans in poverty are 2.5 times more likely to have an unmet dental need due to lack of insurance. Black adults are 68% more likely to have an unmet dental need than white adults, and nearly 4 in 10 Black and Latinx adults reside in 14 states where Medicaid’s adult dental benefits cover no services or emergency-only care.

“Transforming health through oral health demands a person-centered, equity-driven approach,” said Ann Greiner, president and CEO, Primary Care Collaborative.  “The leadership at CareQuest Institute is committed to that approach and understands that integration of oral health into primary care is fundamental to addressing long-standing disparities.”    

CareQuest Institute will operate as a catalyst for systems change, bringing forth ideas and solutions to create a more equitable, accessible, and integrated health system for everyone. It will do this through its five areas of activation:

  • Grantmaking – investing strategically to strengthen communities and improve the overall health system.
  • Care Improvement – partnering with public and private stakeholders across the care continuum to test and measure prevention-focused, person-centered strategies.
  • Research – conducting innovative research and actively seeking out and analyzing data to reveal opportunities to transform oral health care and improve patient outcomes.
  • Education – building a world-class education program for medical and dental professionals, students and community partners who are committed to attaining the knowledge and skills required to transform oral health and health care.
  • Policy and Advocacy – mobilizing diverse coalitions, creating pathways and championing policies that lead us to a more integrated, accessible and equitable oral health care system.

The full CareQuest Institute portfolio — organizations in which CareQuest Institute has full or majority ownership stakes — includes dental benefits companies that collectively serve more than 32 million people nationwide, care delivery settings, and CareQuest Innovation Partners.

About the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health

CareQuest Institute for Oral Health is a nonprofit committed to building a future in which equitable systems promote excellent health, allowing every person to reach their full potential. We partner with thought leaders, health care providers, patients, and local, state, and federal stakeholders to champion oral health care transformation, because good overall health depends on good oral health. Through innovative ideas that ignite meaningful change, we create a more integrated, accessible, and equitable oral health care system. To learn more, visit carequest.org.

Direct Media Inquiries to:
Kristin LaRoche
klaroche@carequest.org
857-275-5038