By Vivian Vasallo, Executive Director of the Delta Dental Institute
For over 65 years, Delta Dental has been guided by a simple promise: to serve the oral and overall health of our communities. While 2020 brought unpredictable challenges, Delta Dental companies and foundations never wavered in their commitment to serve communities across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Today, we are proud to release our 2020 Community Impact Report highlighting these efforts.
In 2020, Delta Dental companies and foundations invested more than $102.5 million in their communities, supporting over 2,400 programs, impacting 24.7 million lives, and volunteering 20,000 hours—a greater impact than ever before in our history. In addition, Delta Dental companies across the country committed $1.1 billion in COVID-19 response relief. While our country grappled with a pandemic, injustice, and ongoing gaps in oral health care access and education, we kept our promise by standing with and supporting our communities when their need was greatest.
We focused on shoring up pathways to healthcare by providing vital community relief, including issuing loans to safety net dental clinics, supporting dental offices in acquiring PPE, and ensuring healthy meals for millions by investing more than $3 million in food banks. Our volunteerism also had a tangible—and personal—impact. To name just two examples, Delta Dental of Wisconsin Foundation sewed masks for COVID-19 patients, while Delta Dental of Iowa wrote cards to first responders and nursing home residents isolated because of the pandemic.
We continued our longtime investment in health equity in a year full of high-profile examples of inequities and disparities. To work toward racial justice, understanding that racism is a serious public health crisis, we invested in leading civil rights organizations like the NAACP. We also supported more than 1,300 programs prioritizing minority, low-income, or uninsured people, like dental screenings for African immigrants at the Center for Immigrants and Immigration Services in Denver, Colorado, and worked to build a more inclusive pipeline of dental providers to improve underserved and minority community health.
We didn't waver from our central commitment to expand access to oral health care nationwide—because oral health is critical to overall health. Our oral health care programs adapted their operations to the pandemic, innovating to continue offering vital care to millions. For example, Delta Dental of Virginia moved its Smart Smiles teaching kits program, which provides a complete oral health curriculum, teaching tools, and resources to educate elementary students on good oral health, to a free online format to reach students learning virtually.
The memories of 2020 will stay with us for years to come, but so will the impact the Delta Dental companies made on millions of lives across the country by keeping a 65-year-old promise to serve the oral and overall health of our communities, no matter what they're facing. I am so proud of our 2020 impact, and look forward to continuing to work together with our companies, foundations, and communities toward better oral and overall health for all.