By Vivian Vasallo, Executive Director of the Delta Dental Institute
For 65 years, Delta Dental has been guided by our purpose, powered by our people, and committed to our promise of advancing oral health. We launched the Delta Dental Institute last year because we recognized the critical need for oral health to be included in the evolving national conversation on health care. As we approach the first year anniversary of the Delta Dental Institute, we are proud to release the inaugural Delta Dental Community Impact Report, available here on our website, and share the tremendous positive impact of Delta Dental companies and foundations on their communities.
As policies and technology have transformed access to oral health services, our understanding about the importance of oral health to overall health has deepened, Further, as the needs of our communities have shifted, Delta Dental companies have evolved to meet them. We've kept—and will continue to keep—our promise to advance oral health, as exemplified by the $76.3 million donated in 2019 to over 1,700 programs dedicated to improving the oral and overall health of all Americans.
Amid these transformations, the dialogue around the national health care system shifted to become more comprehensive, focusing on how social determinants such as education and zip code affect health outcomes. Our mission at the Delta Dental Institute is built on our recognition of oral health's role in that national conversation: we aim to advance oral health for all Americans to ensure everyone can have the healthy smile they deserve and live their healthiest lives.
To achieve this, we must recognize the persistent disparities in access to care in our nation. The public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic exposed these vulnerabilities and made the need to elevate oral health in the broader health policy conversation even more important. This year's Community Impact Report reflects only a fraction of the meaningful work Delta Dental companies and their foundations do to address these disparities by listening to, learning from, and supporting their communities—ongoing efforts that positively impacted over 12.8 million people in 2019.
The Community Impact Report includes powerful stories from Delta Dental companies that demonstrate the ways we can generate impact on an individual and community level to promote good oral and overall health. From the Red Bird Mission Clinic, providing oral health care to drug and alcohol recovery patients in rural Kentucky, to the Land of Smiles program, touring schools in Missouri and South Carolina since 2012 to put on colorful shows about good dental habits, each region has its own unique story. However, the clear need to expand access to care, strengthen oral health education, and deepen community engagement binds them together.
Looking ahead, the programs included in this report are powerful examples of the progress we can make together by harnessing the power of our communities, tapping into innovation in oral health care, and focusing on our shared goal. I am proud of the positive impact the Delta Dental Institute has made over the past year in partnership with Delta Dental companies, and I look forward to helping every one of us live our healthiest lives.