Sharing What We Have Learned is sponsored by the Office of Community Engagement and Neighborhood Health Partnerships, Healthy City Collaborative, and the Office of Health Literacy, Prevention, and Engagement. We are pleased to highlight research and community engagement activities of UIC researchers. Each month we feature a researcher and important findings from their work. This information is shared in a ready-to-use format suitable for widespread distribution. If you would like more information about our efforts to share what we have learned, visit our website at http://oceanhp.uic.edu or email [email protected]
Social Context, Stress, Cancer, and Oral Health of Black and LatinX Men
Patrick Smith, DMD, MPH
Assistant professor, UIC College of Dentistry, Division of Prevention and Public Health Sciences
The oral health status of Black and LatinX men is under-studied and under-reported in scientific literature. However, Black and LatinX men are considered high risk due to known oral health inequities among men in Black and LatinX populations. Those inequities include poor outcomes from tooth decay, periodontal disease, tooth loss, and oral and pharyngeal cancers. Additionally, Black and LatinX men disproportionately experience the impacts of structural racism and other social determinants that limit their access to dental care and exacerbate their risk for oral diseases.
Much of what is unknown about Black and LatinX men’s oral health is due to their limited recruitment and participation in oral health research. To address that, an academic, community-based partnership was established with the UI Health Cancer Center and Project Brotherhood. Project Brotherhood is a community-based organization in Chicago, IL that has worked to reduce health inequities among Black men for over 20 years. They led an initiative to learn more about predisposing and enabling social factors associated with Black and LatinX men’s oral health need and utilization of dental care services. Additionally, they sought to learn more about how dental care need and utilization is associated with stress and oral health-related quality of life.
Results of the project so far have revealed significant associations among self-reported dental care need and common structural factors, such as lower education and lower income. Additionally, contextual factors that are not commonly assessed in oral health, such as having issues with tobacco use, housing security, neighborhood safety, emotional support, and transportation, were found to be significantly associated with dental care need and/or underutilization of dental care services. The strongest predictors of dental care need and utilization were tobacco use and having dental insurance, respectively. Data on stress and quality of life are currently being analyzed for future reporting and dissemination.
So far, the most glaring outcome of the project was the significance of the community-based partnership to address oral health inequities; highlighting a need for oral health professionals to seek out more collaborations in public health and healthcare policy. Using what we’ve learned and understanding that addressing systematic issues are timely and complex, the project team is developing innovative ideas for interventions that can promote oral health in lieu of the slow progress towards change.
About Our Researcher
Dr. Patrick Smith is a full-time assistant professor at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) College of Dentistry in the Division of Prevention and Public Health Sciences. In this position, he facilitates community-based learning experiences for predoctoral dental students, with an emphasis on improving access to dental care, addressing the social determinants of health, and achieving interprofessional collaboration. His published works support the role of dental education programs in advancing oral health equity among disadvantaged populations; with a focus on racism and Black and LatinX men.