A National Call to Action to
Promote Oral Health
June 2003—A National Call to Action to Promote Oral Health marks
the latest in an ongoing effort to address the country’s oral health needs
in the 21st century. Reflecting the work of a partnership of public and
private organizations, the Call to Action builds on Oral Health
in America: A Report of the Surgeon General (May 2000) and the
Healthy People 2010 focus area on Oral Health. The Call to Action
seeks to expand on these efforts by enlisting the expertise of individuals,
health researchers and care providers, communities, and policymakers at
all levels of society.
The goals of the Call to Action are to
- Promote oral health,
- Improve quality of life, and
- Eliminate oral health disparities.
The Call to Action invites groups to expand plans, activities, and
programs designed to promote oral health and prevent disease for all. In
addition, special efforts should be made to reduce the health disparities that affect members of
and ethnic groups and people who are poor, geographically isolated, or vulnerable because of special oral health care needs. The
actions taken to achieve these goals are to be science-based, culturally
sensitive, and routinely evaluated. Furthermore, the Call to Action
urges that these emerging oral health plans and activities should be designed with
the intent of integrating them into plans for enhancing general health and
The Call to Action specifies five specific actions, each of which
has an implementation strategy.
Action 1. Change perceptions of oral health.
Americans should understand that oral health is essential to general
health and well-being. In addition, their oral health literacy should be
enhanced so that they can make informed health-related decisions. Groups to
be targeted with educational messages include the general public, health
providers, and public policymakers.
Action 2. Overcome barriers by replicating effective programs and
Safe and effective oral disease prevention methods are known but these
have not been applied as widely as possible. Community-based health
promotion and disease prevention programs should be expanded, and
additional outreach and community service activities are needed to close
gaps in access to care. Concerted efforts are needed to overcome barriers
in access to care caused by geographic isolation, poverty, insufficient
education, and lack of language skills. Inadequate reimbursements for care
in some public and private programs should be addressed to encourage
additional provider participation.
Action 3. Build the science base and accelerate science transfer.
Biomedical and behavioral research provides the foundation for an
evolving health care practice that includes prevention, diagnosis, and
treatment of oral diseases. Future research should address gaps in applied
science and science transfer. Applied
research including clinical and population-based studies, demonstration projects,
and health services research should be enhanced to improve oral health and prevent disease. In
addition, the effective transfer of science into public health and private
practice should be accelerated.
Action 4. Increase oral health workforce diversity, capacity, and
Multiple strategies are needed to attract members of under represented
racial and ethnic groups to careers in oral health, to ensure
availability of sufficient numbers of practitioners, educators, and
researchers to meet present and future patient and community needs. Oral
health workforce capacity also should be enhanced in health care shortage
areas and in public health programs. Strategies should address ways to
permit optimal flexibility in employment of the oral health workforce to
Action 5. Increase collaborations.
The private and public sectors each have unique characteristics and
strengths. Linking the two can result in a creative synergy capitalizing on
the talent and resources of each partner. A sustained effort is
needed to build the nation’s oral health infrastructure to ensure that all
sectors of society—the public, private practitioners, and federal and state
government personnel—have sufficient knowledge, expertise, and resources to
design, implement, and monitor oral health programs.
The Call to Action reflects the work of a Partnership Network of
more than 90 public and private national organizations who responded to an
open invitation from the Office of the Surgeon General, as well as
information received during five regional listening sessions and from other
public and scientific comments. It provides the basis for integrating
efforts of future members of the Network and for fostering public-private
partnerships across the nation. The federal government's continued
involvement in the Network is anticipated but other members
will increasingly assume leadership of the action agenda as communication and collaboration
expands. The Network will serve as a forum to
measure progress in implementing this Call to Action.
A National Call to Action to Promote Oral Health was
released by former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona on April 29, during the
2003 National Oral Health Conference held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The
Call To Action to Promote Oral Health is available at
CDC works with states to provide technical assistance to help them
develop state-specific action plans. CDC also provides support to state
public health programs designed to enhance state infrastructure,
leadership, and surveillance, as well as develop and evaluate programs to
prevent oral diseases. See
Infrastructure Development Tools and
State Oral Health Plans
for more information.
Page last modified: March 30, 2009
Division of Oral Health,
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and