Greetings! I’m Sarah Borgida, Director of Children’s Programs and Tribal Partnerships at Arcora Foundation, which is funded by Delta Dental of Washington. Our mission is to bend the arc of oral health toward equity, and we do this in a variety of ways. We address public policy, work to achieve systems change, and award grants, mostly to safety net clinics in Washington state. At Arcora, we partner with communities that experience oral health disparities and carry the burden of oral disease to eliminate disparities and eliminate oral disease (such as community clinics, refugees and immigrants, Native American tribes, and other community groups). I’ve spent the last decade working in partnership with communities, patients, providers, organizations, and stakeholder groups to improve oral and overall health for people in Washington and the Northwest. My work is incredibly interesting, challenging, and rewarding (To be honest, it’s sometimes difficult to convince people I meet at cocktail parties that it’s interesting, but I do my best!).
I’m a former teacher, administrator, and have worked in education reform and to improve early learning systems and programs. So how did I get involved in oral health and spend ten years and counting doing this work? The story is long, but the reason is simple: I’m passionate about doing mission driven work, specifically social justice work, and oral health is a social justice and equity issue. Through my travels abroad, and my professional and personal experiences right here in Washington, I’ve seen how some people – particularly those with resources – have fantastic oral health and think very little about it, while others – often those with few resources – struggle to access even basic dental care and think about oral health constantly because they suffer with oral disease with no respite.
So, what is Arcora Foundation and I doing to end oral health disparities? As I mentioned above, all of the work we do at Arcora Foundation is in partnership with others – communities, providers, and organizations. We don’t do anything alone. One public-private partnership that I’m particularly proud of is Access to Baby and Child Dentistry (ABCD). This partnership includes Arcora Foundation, the University of Washington School of Dentistry, Washington’s Department of Health, and Health Care Authority (Medicaid Program), the Washington State Dental Association, and the Washington State Dental Hygiene Association. Together, this partnership supports the ABCD statewide system of care that connects Medicaid-insured children under 6 with dentists in their local communities who are ABCD trained and certified, and who receive enhanced fees for certain procedures. ABCD patients/families in need of extra help making and keeping dental appointments receive help from local ABCD coordinators. ABCD is nationally recognized and replicated and has been incredibly successful – over 54% of Washington’s Medicaid insured children under 6 accessed dental care in 2019, making ABCD a national leader in access for young Medicaid insured children.
Another partnership I’m honored to be a part of is one with Northwest Tribes, and the Northwest Tribal Dental Support Center. Together, we work to improve the oral health of Native people in the Northwest. We do this in a variety of ways, including through quality improvement collaboratives focused on young children 0 – 5 and with Native elders, and by providing grants and continuing education to tribal dental teams. The work we do together has also been nationally recognized and has been successful. For example, for Tribes that participated in the collaborative focused on young children, access to care increased 87% on average after the first year of program participation and 105% by the end of the program.
I am involved with a variety of other oral health improvement efforts at Arcora Foundation. One wise dentist said that in collaborative work, “everyone teaches, and everyone learns”. I truly believe that is what I’m doing at Arcora Foundation and with our partners, and while I hope I’m teaching something (I am a former teacher, after all!) I know have learned, and continue to learn, so much. I’m grateful to work with others every day to improve oral health, and overall health, and to end oral health disparities.