I just returned from the International Association of Dental Research meeting in Toronto. Fascinating, for me at least. It was also very interesting how many connections and how much relevance there was to both emerging technologies and general health. I hope to talk more about specifics, but will start with just a quick overview of some of the items that most captured my attention.
It turns out that tests of health literacy partially predict how well people communicate with their doctor, but not really with their dentist. Oral health literacy content reviews show that most materials about oral health problems are written way over the head of most Americans (duh). There was an interesting discussion about whether we are approaching the concept of health literacy the right way. For example:
– Should we instead teach hair dressers and barbers (for example) about oral health as way to more effectively disseminate information into the community?
– Should we consider assessing functional literacy rather than reading literacy?
– Should we use non-print media rather than print? Is a person literate if they struggle with reading but can identify appropriate images and videos, then assemble them into a coherent multimedia presentation?
– Should we consider disseminating information via social networks and dating sites for persons over 50?
There is a lot of buzz about the relationships between systemic diseases (heart disease, diabetes, etcetera) and oral health. A lot of buzz about the role of tetracycline-family meds both in preventing gum disease, but also in preventing/reducing/slowing other health problems related to the underlying issue of inflammation — including some heart disease, cancer growth, cancer metastasis, skin disease, asthma, some preterm births, and much more. Inflammation seems to be the common element between oral health and the systemic diseases. This didn’t connect so much with ETech, but it sure did with general and systemic health!
A researcher I worked with reported that in schools supporting low income families, roughly 60% of students reported having mouth or tooth pain severe enough to sometimes stay home from school and teachers reported that 0 kids had dental problems or pain. Tracking this info at the level of the local school, reporting back to the teachers what their kids had said then resulted in drastic improvements in teacher willingness to incorporate oral health lessons in their teaching curriculum. Other motivator was to provide them with collections of lesson plans and teaching resources from other teachers showing how to include oral health awareness in regular lessons. The website is here:
The del.icio.us account in which I gathered the collection of links for review is here:
The most exciting presentation I saw was about a partnership between architecture students and dental students to create oral health literacy materials for underserved populations. Architecture students supplied design expertise, design software training, and advice. Dental students supplied expertise on content, researched the evidence, and created the end products. VERY impressive work, and an exciting and surprising partnership. Lots of potential for opening doors to other kinds of partnerships, as well as adapting the educational materials to other media. They were excellent!
I was part of a team presenting about Second Life and its potential for research and training. The folks at the symposium on oral health literacy encouraged us to remember to include researchers in our travels throughout the SL health landscape, so that there is data to support or justify grant applications and developing quality resource materials, so that we know who uses health information in Second Life and how the populations there differ from those reached through other media and venues. I will talk more about our SL presentation over the coming days.
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