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Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation Strengthen Link Between Oral Health and Overall Health

Posted on January 7, 2020 in Foundation


Even though its name is synonymous with dental health, Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation is shifting its funding strategy beginning in 2020 to create stronger ties between oral health and overall health. While a majority of the funding will continue to be concentrated in oral health, the new Beyond 2020 Foundation strategy also looks for opportunities to improve overall wellness, mental health and vision health through grassroots community health initiatives.  

“This shift enables the Foundation to be a larger catalyst for change to help improve the overall health and wellness of all Iowans,” said Jeff Russell, president and chief executive officer, Delta Dental of Iowa. “The Foundation’s impact on oral health care for all Iowans remains central in our focus and that will not waver. To have greater impact we must include and support the connection between oral health and overall wellness including vision and behavioral health.”

The Foundation’s funding portfolio will range from smaller grants to support one time, short-term projects such as providing oral health supplies to larger grants that support infrastructure and systemic change in collaboration with community partners. The broad range is intended to spark innovation and improve the overall health and wellness of all Iowans.

Oral and Overall Health Care Integration

An excellent example of this new strategic shift was announced last week at Genesis Health System in Davenport. A Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation grant of $227,573 will support a two-year study to implement an evidence-based practice to decrease non-ventilated hospital acquired pneumonia. Lack of oral health care and specifically removal of bacteria in the oral cavity for patients has led to an increase in hospital-acquired infections and an increase in hospital acquired pneumonia. Gaps identified in the study included the knowledge of the care staff about oral care of patients and lack of oral care tools being made available to patients.

During the two-year study, all inpatients in the medical surgical units will receive oral hygiene kits and care providers will receive specialized training on oral health care. Processes will be implemented to include oral health care in the daily interventions and care of patients. Upon completion, the study results will be published.

What is the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation?

Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation was founded in 2007 as the funding arm of the Delta Dental of Iowa company to support and improve the oral health of Iowans.  Efforts of the Foundation have heavily focused on oral health care for the past 13 years while the company has expanded its mission to address oral and overall wellness throughout the state of Iowa by offering dental and vision benefits. The Foundation’s Beyond 2020 strategy better aligns with the company’s expanded mission and with patient and medical provider trends toward increasingly integrated health care practices.

The Foundation will direct funding through three strategic focus areas: education and advocacy, access and prevention, and policy and research. Programs and projects considered by the Foundation will align with these categories:

  • Oral health – Projects that promote healthy smiles for all Iowans.
  • Oral and overall health integration – Projects that strengthen connections between dental, physical, and emotional health
  • Overall health – Wellness, vision, and related activities that enable Iowans to live healthy and active lives

Through public/private partnerships developed with state government agencies, nonprofits and other companies, the Foundation has supported a wide variety of projects and educational opportunities across the state of Iowa that increase wellbeing and healthy smiles of Iowans.

The Foundation Board has set a target of $2.725 million in grant dollars to be distributed for 2020. For more information about Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation’s grant programs including descriptions and timelines, visit the Foundation website.