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Advocacy in Action • April 26, 2018

Advocacy and You

CDHA’s Advocacy in Action eNewsletter is designed to raise awareness of the association’s advocacy initiatives and identify opportunities for members to take action. Since the eNewsletter’s launch in July 2016, CDHA members and staff have worked diligently to help improve the public’s access to dental hygiene care and promote the oral health of Canadians. Here are some of our latest policy and advocacy activities.

Elected Officials Celebrate National Dental Hygienists Week™

Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor extended National Dental Hygienists Week™ (NDHW™) greetings to all CDHA members earlier this month, commending dental hygienists for their vital role in helping Canadians maintain good oral and overall health. Kicking off the week, Marilyn Gladu, Conservative Party health critic and member of Parliament for Sarnia–Lambton, visited CDHA member Brenda Di Muzio’s dental hygiene practice, and Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath visited CDHA member Christine Fairbairn’s Bright Smiles Clinic. Congratulatory social media posts from the Government of Canada, the Chief Public Health Officer, and a number of federal MPs further energized our week-long celebration of “Oral Health for Total Health.”

Advocacy Toolkit for Members

While CDHA continues to meet regularly with elected officials and maintains ongoing relationships with civil servants, successful advocacy depends on local efforts by members to deliver a strong message to their elected representatives on issues affecting their community. To prepare dental hygienists for this advocacy work, CDHA has developed a toolkit with the information required to ensure that discussions with local elected officials raise awareness of the importance of access to preventive and therapeutic oral health care for Canadians.

Federal Budget Highlights

In advance of the 2018 federal budget, CDHA communicated its priorities to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, recommending that the federal government improve the health and well-being of Canadians by incorporating oral care into homecare programs, optimizing oral health human resources, enhancing loan forgiveness programs, and investing in initiatives that support Indigenous people.

On February 27, Finance Minister Bill Morneau unveiled the 2018 federal budget, entitled Equality and Growth. This budget defines the federal government’s fiscal priorities for the coming year. Key aspects related to health care and the dental hygiene profession are summarized here.

Filling the Gap in Oral Health Care

CDHA commissioned research to identify options for reintroducing dental therapy training into postsecondary education programs, recognizing that the closure of Canada’s last dental therapy program in 2011 has led to significant oral health human resource shortages. Filling the Gap in Oral Health Care, a CDHA position statement, presents the results of this research.

After significant lobbying efforts and numerous meetings, CDHA secured a grant to develop this new oral health curriculum. CDHA is pleased to be working with key stakeholders on this important initiative, which will equip graduates with the skills to prevent oral disease, as well as alleviate unnecessary pain and suffering.

Community Water Fluoridation Resources

Community water fluoridation continues to make headlines and be a topic of discussion for decision makers. To support you in educating your clients, CDHA has developed a new position statement, FAQs, and a webinar. Show your support for this vital public health initiative by displaying the small poster in your workspace. We all care about our communities, so let’s do our part to help more Canadians benefit from access to community water fluoridation.

Organizations for Health Action

CDHA plays an active role in advocating for initiatives and programs that support the health and well-being of Canadians. CDHA co-chairs the Organizations for Health Action (HEAL), a national coalition representing 40 health care professional associations and groups, which tackles strategic issues of importance to all members. For the coming year, HEAL has identified homecare, mental health, and opioids as key focus areas for advocacy. Recent meetings have included presentations from Health Canada, provincial ministers of health, the Canadian Institute for Health Information, and the parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice and minister of health.

Victoria Lobby Day a Success

One of CDHA’s fundamental advocacy strategies is to support provinces in their advocacy initiatives. On March 4 and 5, CDHA joined BCDHA colleagues in Victoria for an advocacy training session followed by a series of very successful meetings with over 30 MLAs, including the Official Opposition health critic, the minister of health, and the minister of social development and poverty reduction.

Provincially Funded Oral Health Care

On January 31, CDHA presented to Ontario’s minister of finance on the importance of oral health and the need for greater provincial funding for oral health care, especially for those without employer-based coverage or means to pay out-of-pocket. Not long after this presentation, publicly funded oral health care for a greater portion of Ontarians (e.g., low-income families and seniors) was included in both the Liberal and NDP provincial election platforms. CDHA has written to the party leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario strongly encouraging greater investments in oral health care.

Continue the Conversation

CDHA met with federal MPs, provincial MLAs and MPPs, provincial ministers, senior civil servants, and the media over the past year to discuss priorities for dental hygiene and the oral health of Canadians. We highlighted issues such as rural and Indigenous health, the oral–systemic link, and the need for legislation and policies to promote optimal oral health. CDHA will continue to seek out opportunities to influence policy and support CDHA members in advocacy work. Contact advocacy@cdha.ca for further information.

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