Introducing Virginia Health Catalyst: The Intersection of Overall Health and Oral Health

I’m excited to announce the next era of the Virginia Oral Health Coalition - Virginia Health Catalyst. This is a pivotal moment for our work, and the decision to change our name to Virginia Health Catalyst came from collaborative and thoughtful discussions with our board, staff, and partners. As we began to update our strategic plan a year ago, we asked ourselves what we need to do better and differently to meet our mission to ensure all Virginians have equitable access to comprehensive health care that includes oral health. Our new name reflects our collective understanding that good oral health doesn’t occur in a vacuum; to improve the overall health of Virginians, we must address the clinical, environmental, and social factors that impact a person’s health.

Our strategic vision for comprehensive health care that includes oral health

Our focus remains oral health; it is our expertise and is at the heart of our programs and advocacy efforts. To meet our mission as Virginia Health Catalyst, we are introducing a strategic framework that creates a foundation for comprehensive health care based on four interconnected systems, or pillars: public health, policy, clinical and community care, and public awareness.

The pillars will guide our work and shape the lens through which we can advance health in the Commonwealth:

  • Public Health: Community, environmental, and social factors equitably contribute to improved oral and overall health.
  • Policy: Laws, policies, and regulations at all levels of government support positive oral and overall health outcomes and health equity.
  • Clinical and Community Care: Care provided by all health care providers and lay health workers including clinicians, community health workers, and home visitors, is equitable, high-quality, coordinated, and integrated.
  • Public Awareness: Awareness of the importance of comprehensive health and the integral relationship between oral and overall health informs all aspects of the health care system.

Water fluoridation is a great example of how all four pillars work together to improve health. We know community water fluoridation is one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century and a cost-effective way to improve health outcomes. Some Virginians, however, believe tap water is unsafe or live in a locality that does not fluoridate its public water. To ensure everyone in Virginia can access fluoridated tap water and trust its safety, Virginia Health Catalyst works with partners to ensure that state and local policy supports fluoridation, and partners have the resources and tool to advocate for water safety and equitable infrastructure improvements and promote water as a substitute for sugar sweetened beverages. We also engage clinical and community care partners to build public awareness around the benefits of fluoridated water and address individual fears or concerns.

Our evolution to Virginia Health Catalyst

Together we’ve accomplished great things to improve health in Virginia; from adding a comprehensive dental benefit for pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid, to protecting fluoridated water in communities across the Commonwealth and enabling clinicians and lay health professionals to provide integrated care to those they serve. These accomplishments contributed to a paradigm shift in the way people think and talk about oral health. Our progress makes all of us at Virginia Health Catalyst even more excited for what lies ahead.

What you can expect from Virginia Health Catalyst

Our core programs, like the regional oral health alliances, learning collaboratives, and the community water fluoridation rapid response team remain integral to our work. As Virginia Health Catalyst, we’ll bring a stronger focus on public health issues that impact individual and population health to all of our programs and advocacy efforts.

Beginning today, you’ll find new resources on our website, such as our white papers elevating the importance of fluoridated tap water and health integration, that are designed to help our partners advocate, and implement equitable comprehensive health care. You can expect an updated print and online integration toolkit in early October. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to join our email list to stay up-to-date on our latest resources and events.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our work as Virginia Health Catalyst than with our Virginia Oral Health Summit on November 7 - I hope you will join us for this annual event.

As we move forward as Virginia Health Catalyst, I encourage partners, both new and existing, to reach out to me directly with questions, concerns, or opportunities to partner more closely moving forward. We would not be where we are today without our incredible partners, and through collaboration across Virginia we can create comprehensive health care for all.

Here’s to an exciting future as Virginia Health Catalyst!