Perceptions of oral health in urban housing developments
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Objectives: The purposes of this study was to assess the perceptions of individuals directly and indirectly involved in the operations of public housing developments across the U.S, to better understand how these perceptions of oral healthcare might influence the development of initiatives targeted a improving overall healthcare among individuals living in public housing developments. Methods: The target population was the 180 attendees of the 2010 meeting of the Health Care for Residents of Public Housing National Conference. A ten-question survey which assessed conference attendees' beliefs about oral health and its importance to public housing residents was distributed. Data was analyzed using SAS 9.1. Descriptive statistics were calculated for each variable and results were stratified by participants' roles. Free response question were compiled according to specific criteria. Results: Sixty participants were surveyed. The majority of survey participants resided in Massachusetts (n=16; 27.1%) and Ohio (n=11; 18.6%) with a total of 18 states represented in the completed surveys. Among all participants, 38.6 percent rated oral health as one of the top three health issues faced by public housing residents and that residents of public housing developments believe oral health is the 'Most Important' health issue. Those respondents who worked within a Housing Authority, the largest represented role, chose Oral Healthcare as the greatest of the three health needs followed by 'Access to Nutritional Food' and 'Access to Primary Healthcare'. The majority (n=11; 50%) of public housing residents preferred using the term 'Dental Health' as compared to Agency Representatives (n=3; 50%) and Housing Authority employees (n=12; 50%), both of whom preferred the term 'Oral Health'. Conclusions: According to survey participants, Oral Health is a one of the greatest unmet needs for public housing residents. And while some participants come from housing developments that have programs in place to promote health issues, the majority of participants report having no such programs in place. Important to also note are the similarities and differences shared by participants who serve in different roles within a public housing development (i.e. residents v. housing authority). While there was no noted difference in preference to the term Oral Health versus Dental Health, it is worth noting the responses of participants who had different interpretations of the two terms. Limitations of this survey include sample size, and further analysis on this subject might include specific surveys targeted at residents of public housing or to those who are involved in the operations of public housing developments.
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