Breaking the Barriers to Care: Community Outreach Programs

Fournier, Mary Paige, Alyssa Goike, Alyssa Reid, Jessica Stricklin, Pamela Gibes, and Kathi Shepherd

The purpose of this investigation was to assess current dental hygiene students on their knowledge of services provided by community-based service-learning programs and to assess interest in future participation in these types of programs to benefit not only their clinical experiences, but also their local communities.



Sixty-one counties in the state of Michigan are designated as a full or partial county Health Provider Shortage Area (HPSA), creating a critical lack of access to dental care. To increase access to care, service-learning can be incorporated into dental and dental hygiene curricula. Service-learning combines clinical learning with a way for students to provide service in the local community. Community-based education has been implemented into many dental and dental hygiene programs to educate and expose students with the hope of creating professionals willing to provide service in the community while simultaneously meeting the health care needs of their local community. The Dental Hygiene Program has a long-standing history of providing students with strong community outreach experience within the curriculum. Exit interview data collected during the past five years revealed that students were very interested in providing future community based service. To gain a state-wide perspective, an investigation was conducted to assess the perceptions of dental hygiene students in the state of Michigan for value of community outreach in the curriculum and willingness to practice in the community after graduation. A ten question survey was conducted at the annual student members of the American Dental Hygienist Association (ADHA) meeting held November 1, 2013 using a combination of Likert scale and fixed response questions after IRB approval was obtained (IRB approval protocol #1314-15). 196 surveys were returned for analysis. 83% of students surveyed stated that community outreach is currently a required component in their curriculum. Of 193 surveyed, 85% stated that community outreach should be required in dental hygiene curriculum, with 67% stating they would consider working in the community upon graduation. It was concluded that current dental hygiene students are interested in providing care in the community in the future and that community outreach should be incorporated into the curriculum. This will help provide access to care to those communities that are neglected in regards to dental care.