Buckle-up and smile for life: uncommon partners find common ground to collaborate and eliminate disparities: Part 2

Buckle-up and smile for life: uncommon partners find common ground to collaborate and eliminate disparities: Part 2 – Caring Counts

Hazel J. Harper

Part 1 of this article appeared in The Dental Assistant, May/June 2003.

The NDA CARES Award National Competition

In order to stimulate involvement, a national society competition was designed. The NDA CARES Award contest was conceived. Contestants were judged on activities from January 1-June 30, 2002. The winners were announced at the NDA annual convention in Dallas, during the President’s Gala on July 27, 2002.

Since community education represented only one facet of the NDA’s mission, it was agreed that the competing societies should be judged on their performance in five categories: Community Education, Access Improvement, Recruitment (of African American students), Equity in Healthcare and Safety Promotion. Performance criteria were established and a point spread was developed. Points were awarded in several different areas, including: number of children screened and referred; number of consumers receiving seat belt safety information; number of community partners; media exposure; and venues. The points were tallied and the judges’ decision was final.

NHTSA funded the awards. The first place winner was the Robert T. Freeman Dental Society of Washington, DC, and the second place winner was the Angel City Dental Society of Los Angeles, CA.

The intent of the contest was not only to stimulate involvement and to award outstanding achievements, but also to reinforce for the local societies the imperative of project success: measurable outcomes that justify continued funding. By the end of the grant cycle, participating societies had acquired some valuable tools: the art of standardizing (and mastering) the data collections process; the importance of documentation and timely reporting; the benefits of fostering non-traditional partnerships and the value of building coalitions.

Message Development & Delivery: Achieving Cultural Relevance

Because the gap in seat belt use still exists, it is clear that traditional media messages have not worked in African American communities. Therefore, for this project, education and training had to go beyond the traditional. Message development and message delivery were of paramount importance. The messages had to be culturally appropriate and relevant for the target population. The messengers and the venues had to “match” the target populations.

It was decided that the following vehicles would be used for message delivery: printed materials (brochures), lecture presentations, oral health screenings with the distribution of “oral health kits” containing seat belt safety brochures, child safety seat demonstrations, and exhibits. A customized banner was designed that carried the project’s logo and the name of the individual society. African American oral health professionals, under the rubric of the NDA, would be the team leaders. The NDA community leaders were expected not only to be project leaders, but also to serve as role models and recruiters for the profession. The project’s “How-To” manual provided guidelines on how to incorporate seat belt safety messages into oral health and injury prevention messages.

In developing the project brochure, NHTSA materials already in use were used in conjunction with original materials developed specifically for this project by the NDA. Background information on seat belt use was gleaned from the Meharry Report, (10) the proceedings of the Blue Ribbon Panel to Increase Seat Belt Use Among African Americans, (11,A) and NHTSA’s African American Fact Sheet. (12) In referencing these materials, the following key findings formed the basis for the body of knowledge that was used in the project’s brochure and video. [In addition, animations, illustrations, and the sequelae of auto impact-injuries specific to the face, teeth, jaws, jaw joints, and skull were provided by Dr. Edward Williams, pioneer of jaw-joint trauma-induced brain stem injuries, NDA Trustee, and project consultant. (13,A)

Forming Alliances: Sustaining the Commitment

“The sensitivity of health care professionals extends beyond minimally meeting cultural or language needs. They must create environments where learning can occur, which is instrumental to improving the health of both individuals and communities. Health care professionals who work with community groups and community members in identifying needs are ensured of having culturally relevant processes in place. Similarly, communities need to learn how their collaboration with health care professionals will improve access to and the quality of care.” (14)

The purpose of the National Dental Association is to elevate the oral health status of African Americans and the underserved by increasing access to care, eliminating health disparities, and promoting oral health as an integral component of overall health. The backbone of the NDA and a perpetual vision is community outreach. The African American community is one that has traditionally been more crisis oriented than prevention oriented. The major task, therefore, of any community education program targeted towards communities of color is to transform a “culture of crisis into a culture of prevention.”

Respecting the fact that this is not an easy task, the NDA has remained committed to undertaking the challenge, and making a difference. In defining the strategies and tactics for achieving community education goals, the organization has determined that when it comes to influencing changes in behavior, there are many critical elements. Understanding the culture, the development of culturally relevant messages, and culturally appropriate messages are not enough. The key to reaching this population with critical health messages and lifesaving information is by forging strong partnerships with other established African American community-based organizations and by establishing multiple alliances with other groups that share the common concern.

Educating America, One Community at a Time: Emerging Best Practices

The “Leading the Way, Lighting the Future” (LW,LF) campaign gave NDA societies across the country a new perspective on community service. The NHTSA Seat Belt Safety project was an ideal match for the organization. The awarding of the NHTSA grant coincided perfectly with the timing for the launch of LW,LF. Within the parameters of the one-year grant funding cycle, the decision was made to use the grant funding to 1) develop a sustainable project (“Buckle-Up and Smile for Life”) for local societies under the LW,LF umbrella, and 2) create a mechanism for project implementation for selected “pilot chapters.”

The creation of the NDA CARES Award provided an extra incentive for societies to get involved and demonstrate their leadership at the grassroots. The challenge of each society was to design programs that were customized to fit their local community, and to understand that their program would be part of a process conceived to provide vital health and safety information to African Americans, one community at a time. The contest period was from January through June, with extra points awarded for activities during February (National Children’s Dental Health Month) and April (National Minority Health Month).

The NDA CARES Award guidelines were tied into the reporting guidelines of the NHTSA grant so that the data collection process would be standardized for all societies. It was envisioned that local societies with the highest levels of commitment, best volunteer base, and existing community outreach infrastructure would compete and become the models for emerging best practices. And they did. At the end of the competition period, the following societies were selected as the top five for community education:

* Robert T. Freeman Dental Society

Washington, DC

1st Place Winner

* Angel City Dental Society

Los Angeles, CA

2nd Place Winner

* The Alabama Dental Association

Tuscaloosa, AL

Honorable Mention

* New Era Dental Society

Philadelphia, PA

* Commonwealth Dental Society

East Orange, NJ

The Robert T. Freeman Dental Society–Washington, DC

The Robert T. Freeman Dental Society (RTFDS), first place winner of the NDA CARES Award “hit the ground running” in January, 2002, participating in a “prelaunch” weekend event sponsored by the local NBC network television affiliate at the DC Convention Center. The mass audience event attracted 50,000. The RTFDS partnered with the Howard University College of Dentistry dental and dental hygiene students. From January through June, the “partners” participated in 43 events. Venues included schools, churches, day care centers, Headstart Programs, the YMCA, Girl Scout Health Fair and civic associations. Partners included the DC Department of Transportation, the DC Metropolitan Police Department, Howard University Hospital and volunteers from area churches. The group also utilized the Howard University radio station, WHUR, for public service announcements to promote the events.

The mass audience events were held at several different venues, including the Howard University College of Dentistry Annual Health Fair, the MLK, Jr., Festival at the Prince George’s Health and Fitness Center; and the DC Convention Center Health Expo. By the end of the six-month reporting period (January through June), the organization had participated in 43 outreach events. It reached 9,020 consumers, conducted 175 car seat checks, and distributed 7,823 pieces of information and educational material on seat belt safety and oral health. (15)

The Angel City Dental Society–Los Angeles

The Angel City Dental Society conducted six events during February through May. Each of the events was hosted in a venue that was a popular attraction for the community. The primary partner for each event was Colgate-Palmolive featuring the company’s Bright Smiles, Bright Futures dental van. The February event, as previously mentioned, was held at the LA Convention Center.

It was featured as part of Community Life Improvement Program’s “Health Education and Risk Reduction Opportunities (HERO) Project,” which was an activity that was a part of a much larger exposition that was attended by an estimated 50,000 people. The ACDS conducted dental screenings in the Colgate van and set up a seat belt safety educational kiosk adjacent to the van. The kiosk featured an educational video, brochure, posters and other materials for distribution. The age group that was targeted for these events was four- to twelve-year olds.

Other venues included: the Hollywood Park Racetrack, the site of the community’s ever popular annual Easter Egg Hunt; McCoy Park; Rogers Park; the Fiesta Broadway Community Event; and Whittier Narrows Regional Park.

The ACDS also partnered with the community’s media outlets and news of the events appeared in the Pasadena Star and the Los Angeles Centennial newspaper.

In the final analysis, at seven events held between February and May 2002, the ACDS seat belt safety and oral health messages had reached 2,492 consumers. (15)

The Alabama Dental Society–Tuscaloosa, AL

Several dentists from this local society completed the “safety seat installation training course.” The group then partnered with the West Alabama Traffic Safety Department, local radio stations, and local car dealerships to conduct safety seat checks. The ADS also developed a seat belt survey and promotional materials, which were distributed along with other seat belt safety materials and oral health information. In the six-month reporting period, five projects were conducted by the Alabama dentists and their partners. Venues included a community church, shopping mall, car dealership and the office parking lot of one of the member dentists.

At the end of the reporting cycle, five projects had been conducted by the ADS and their partners. The society conducted 55 car seat checks, and distributed educational information to 221 consumers.

The New Era Dental Society–Philadelphia, PA

Member dentists partnered with dental students from the University of Pennsylvania Dental School and members of the Tri-State Dental Hygienists Society. Venues included community churches, career fairs, and the Camden Community Center, where they joined with the Commonwealth Dental Society.

The group conducted 25 car seat checks, and distributed 1,040 pieces of educational material on seat belt safety and oral health.

The Commonwealth Dental Society–East Orange, NJ

The Commonwealth Dental Society was a latecomer to the project, but received “honorable mention” for its enthusiasm and participation in a Career Day and Mentorship Program for teens, and in their work with a church preschool.

Results and Projections

The seat belt safety awareness level among the entire NDA membership has increased significantly since the onset of the campaign. The one-year grant period was devoted to project development and the implementation of a six-month test pilot program.

Eleven NDA local societies conducted community outreach activities during the test pilot program from January through June 2002. Of the 11, five societies (previously mentioned) collected data, and reported monthly, from January 1 through June 30, 2002. These societies were considered to have emerging best practices.

Six other societies conducted outreach activities, but were not considered official participants in the “Buckle-Up” project because they did not collect and report data for this project. They were: The Forest City Dental Society (Cleveland, OH); the Pan-Tennessee Dental Society (Nashville, TN); The Maryland Dental Society (Baltimore, MD); The Greater Bay Area Dental Society (San Francisco, CA); the Grand Canyon Dental Society (Phoenix, AZ); and the North Georgia Dental Society (Atlanta, GA).

The five test pilot societies reported that collectively they

* reached 12,356 consumers between January and June 2002

* distributed 3,350 safety documents to parents and guardians

* performed 255 car seat checks

* provided dental screenings and referrals for 2,918 children

* distributed 8,546 oral health education packets

* collaborated with 19 community partners

* spanned all age groups (from preschoolers to grandparents)

* conducted 65 events

The reports did not take into account the number of consumers reached by media hits that were provided by messages through radio public service messages, newsletters, newspapers, church bulletins, school flyers, etc. Therefore, the true impact of this project was not measured and remains undetermined. However, information from the society profiles of thirteen societies provided an indication of the potential scope and impact of this project.

The combined population figures for these areas was 45,582,269 (see Table 2). The number of volunteer members reported was 306; and the number of potential NDA members reported for these areas was 1,873. From these figures it is evident that more collaborations with other groups will be required to deliver the messages and affect behavior.

As the program continues to evolve, it is anticipated that:

* Combined campaign messages will proliferate, designed to reach larger audiences with more effective use of printed materials, audiovisuals and the broadcast media

* The most effective use of community support will be defined

* The community’s capacity for promoting health programs will be determined


This article has described the collaboration of nontraditional partners in a landmark campaign to increase awareness about the importance of seat belt safety and the relationship of oral health to overall health. The integration of a public health message and an oral health message was successfully accomplished in a culturally relevant brochure.

Emphasis was placed on empowering local NDA societies to structure and/or expand grassroots community outreach initiatives. Through the formation of the NDA CARES contest, the societies were given incentives for collaborating with other community groups, and for coalition building. The national NDA-NHTSA initiative was designed to promote volunteerism among the local societies, and also to encourage the development of community health leaders. This unique partnership has sparked a great deal of interest and enthusiasm from both the NDA membership and NHTSA. Both sides are committed to sustaining this effort.

Shared commitment to common causes kindles the spirit of “volunteerism.” In the final analysis, the thread that binds together the most uncommon partners is pure, simple “commitment” and the notion that “Caring Counts.”

Table 2: Potential Project Impact

NDA-NHTSA “Buckle Up and Smile For Life”

Potential Project Impact

Society Name General Poten- Volun-

Population tial teer

Members Members

1. Alabama Dental Society 4,240,500 100 3

Tuscaloosa, AL

2. Angel City Dental Society 5,000,000 227 16

Los Angeles Ca

3. Charles A. George Dental Society 1,250,000 175 25

Houston, TX

4. Commonwealth Dental Society 3,000,000 20

East Orange, NJ

5. Forest City Dental Society 1,000,000 70 20

Cleveland, Ohio

6. Grand Canyon Dental Society 2,000,000 35

Phoenix, AZ

7. Greater Bay Area Dental Society 6,000,000 200 25

San Francisco, CA

8. Kentucky National Dental Society 4,041,769 41

Lexington, KY

9. New Era Dental Society 5,800,000 150 30

Philadelphia, PA

10. North Georgia Dental Society 4,000,000 175 50

Atlanta, GA

11. Pan-Tennessee Dental Society 3,000,000 150 2

Nashville, TN

12. Pelican State Dental Association 1,500,000 150 60

New Orleans, LA

13. Robert T. Freeman Dental Society 1,750,000 400 58

Washington, DC

TOTALS 45,582,269 1,873 306

Society Name Community Media

Partners Outlets

1. Alabama Dental Society 14

Tuscaloosa, AL

2. Angel City Dental Society 2

Los Angeles Ca

3. Charles A. George Dental Society

Houston, TX

4. Commonwealth Dental Society 0 2

East Orange, NJ

5. Forest City Dental Society

Cleveland, Ohio

6. Grand Canyon Dental Society 2

Phoenix, AZ

7. Greater Bay Area Dental Society

San Francisco, CA

8. Kentucky National Dental Society 18

Lexington, KY

9. New Era Dental Society 1

Philadelphia, PA

10. North Georgia Dental Society 9

Atlanta, GA

11. Pan-Tennessee Dental Society 3

Nashville, TN

12. Pelican State Dental Association

New Orleans, LA

13. Robert T. Freeman Dental Society 13 18

Washington, DC

TOTALS 19 66


(10.) Meharry Medical College. The Meharry Report: Achieving A Credible Health and Safety Approach to Increasing Seat Belt Use Among African Americans. 1999.

(11.) U.S. Dept. of Transportation. Blue Ribbon Panel to Increase Seat Belt Use Among African Americans. A Report to the Nation; October 2000. DOT HS 809 185. December 2000.

(12.) African American Fact Sheet. U.S. Dept. of Transportation. NHTSA Seat belt safety promotional flier.

(13.) National Dental Association. Leading the Way, Lighting the Future, Buckle-Up and Smile for Life Brochure. Washington, DC: June 2002.

(14.) McNeil, J. BE SAFE. National Minority AIDS Education and Training Center Cultural Competency Model. Howard University Medical School; 2002.

(15.) National Dental Association. Buckle-Up and Smile for Life. NDA-NHTSA Final Report Year One. Washington, DC: Nov. 2002.

Note A: The Blue Ribbon Panel was established on June 26, 2000, by U.S. Secretary of Transportation, the Honorable Rodney E. Slater, to identify strategies to increase seat belt use among African Americans. In 1997, President William Clinton had established The Presidential Initiative to Increase Seat Belt Use for All Americans, which challenged the nation to increase seat belt use to 85 percent by 2000, 90 percent by 2005 and to reduce child occupant deaths by 25 percent by the year 2005. In 1998, Secretary Slater, and U.S. Surgeon General, the Honorable Dr. David Satcher, declared seat belt safety a national health priority.

Dr. Harper is the former President of the National Dental Association and consultant to the organization’s Corporate Roundtable. She was the Project Director of the 2001-2002 landmark partnership between the NDA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. She is also the co-owner and senior partner of the Rittenhouse Dental Group in Washington, DC.

COPYRIGHT 2003 American Dental Assistants Association

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group