Change and Growth and the MOHC

As the first Executive Director of the Minnesota Oral Health Coalition (MOHC) I have been privileged to be a part of beautiful growth and much change. Growth is not always so beautiful, especially when accompanied by much change. The idea of change creates fear in many of us, as we would rather stay with what we know rather than risk things being different. Somewhere inside us we just might worry that different doesn’t mean better.

I don’t know if the MOHC is better today that it was a year and a half ago, but I can tell you that it is different. We now have over 370 members, have hosted two conferences, a Policy Consensus Tool exercise, have a website, a Twitter and Facebook presence, board committees, countless partners and friends, a semi-regular email newsletter, great funding partners in the Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation and Otto Bremer Foundation. Best of all we have great plans for the future; a leadership training program in the works, almost completed and ready for sharing Fluoride Varnish Training video with accompanying parent video, a group working on an oral health directory, and much more.

So what do we get for all of our beautiful growth and much change? Other than the events and accomplishments I have listed?

What we get with is the possibility of a future where oral health is a priority for everyone, where people really get that the mouth is part of the body, where connections we didn’t even dream of today become everyday count-on-it, where working together we can make Minnesota’s mouths healthier and people smile just a little brighter than before.

One of my favorite writer-artist’s Brian Andreas says it well:

“We lay there and looked up at the night sky and she told me about stars called blue squares and red swirls and I told her I’d never heard of them. Of course not, she said, the really important stuff they never tell you.
You have to imagine it on your own.”

― Brian Andreas

As we near the end of 2015 I wish you all a very happy holiday season and a glorious end to the beautiful year,

Nancy Franke Wilson

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Recruiting for 11/13 Game

“Recruiting for 11/13 Game”

Fall: A time of crisp mornings, pumpkin lattes, falling leaves and FOOTBALL! One thing that always gets me excited about fall is the energy that cool, game-day mornings seem to carry with them.

As a long time sports enthusiast—from both the participant and the fan perspective—I treat most experiences of collaboration or partnership with a team-based focus. As a student at the University of Minnesota (Go Gophers!) School of Public Health I am constantly afforded opportunities to work with new students, faculty, and pubic health professionals. These interactions can become working relationships, whether they are within the context of work, school, the Student Senate, or networking at large. The individuals participating in working relationships become teammates, the way in which we work proactively becomes our new offense, and the way in which we react to new information and problem solve becomes our defense. For kick-off events—purposefully generating excitement for our cause—we call in special teams to communicate our activities and messages in a positive way that can be easily understood by teammates no matter which side of the ball they line up on.

This post is a key component of our special teams approach to an upcoming game to occur after just a few Friday nights. As the Minnesota Oral Health Coalition Conference fast approaches, my excitement to meet new teammates, plan new offenses, and discuss defensive strategy grows! We have a great opportunity to view this conference as a Saturday morning film session of sorts. We can watch the footage of what Minnesota has done and is currently doing in oral health, reconnect with teammates who are playing across our great state, and plan for another year of practices and games. As the registration [] remains open, we have an opportunity to recruit other athletes from their sports and activities to try their hand at our game, thus sharing strategy and increasing the numbers and quality of players on the field, cheering on the sideline, or on reserve and ready to be called up when that perfect play arises.

As an assistant coach (of sorts) working to make this Conference a winning endeavor, I encourage you to reach out to those athletes that you know would like to learn more about our oral health system and contribute to gains on the field of oral health in Minnesota.

This years’ Conference is guaranteed to have many touchdowns and put a win on the board for oral health in Minnesota. Let’s get as many involved as possible now so in the future Minnesota is recognized as an oral health dynasty.

Katie Verchota
MOHC Special Projects Intern


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What is the ECDN?

The Early Childhood Dental Network (ECDN) is a multi-disciplinary collaborative project, and an outgrowth of the Early Childhood Initiative of west central Minnesota. It is designed to increase awareness and education to all children and their caregivers about the importance of oral health, and to increase access to dental care, specifically to the 0-5 population on Minnesota Health Care Programs or the uninsured.  The ECDN is currently active in west central, southwestern, central and southern Minnesota.

There’s strength in numbers

The ECDN’s greatest strength lies in the partnerships it has developed. Through these collaborations, the ECDN:

  • Bridges gaps in services;
  • Works on the strengths of each partner agency;
  • Builds the capacity of current providers;
  • Makes a difference in the oral health of our communities. The ECDN believes that having access to appropriate dental care should be a basic human right.

ECDN’s goals

There are two primary goals of the Early Childhood Dental Network:

  • To increase access to timely, appropriate and affordable dental care with a focus on children ages 0-5;
  •  To increase oral health awareness and education to children, parents and families to help them understand the importance of good oral health to one’s overall health and wellbeing.

For more information about the ECDN, please contact Jane Patrick, Coordinator, at 218-731-4163 or by email at



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A Change in Approach?

A Change in Approach?
Carl Ebert, DDS
Advocacy Committee Chair, Minnesota Oral Health Coalition

Last October, a research brief from the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute reported some grim news about Minnesota’s Medical Assistance dental program. This report revealed that, not only are the base rates for children’s dental services the lowest among all states in the nation (adult rates were fourth from the bottom), but that the decline over that past ten years was the most rapid of any state, a 43.4% drop. This comes as no surprise to those of us involved in dental access programs as we’ve seen oral health drop off the radar as a health care focus over the past decade or more. Stalled reimbursement rates, loss of adult dental services, and declining concern about our state’s chronic dental crisis have together reflected a shocking pattern of indifference for the role of oral health among state health program recipients.

What can be done? The answer may lie buried deep among last year’s legislative products. Senator Julie Rosen wrote language directing Minnesota’s oral health stakeholders to essentially “put our heads together” and develop practical solutions to the problems. She may have been motivated by two state-mandated reports, both underscoring Minnesota’s rapidly failing state dental programs. From last summer to now, the Minnesota Dental Association has convened a growing number of dental stakeholders in an attempt to meet Senator Rosen’s challenge. Last fall this group sent letters to the Governor and Commissioner of DHS recommending a four-part approach toward resolving the dental crisis in Minnesota state health programs. First was the most obvious and necessary, a hike in the dental reimbursement rates that would bring Minnesota back to average among state base pay rates. Three additional recommendations included partially restoring adult dental benefits, reducing state program administrative burdens on dental providers, and funding for a University of Minnesota School of Dentistry-lead effort to develop quality-based reimbursement strategies.

The same stakeholders recently rolled out a public relations campaign focused on educating and advocating for higher dental reimbursement rates. The Minnesota Oral Health Coalition is among the list of collaborating stakeholders and will be working with the PR agency directing this effort. Early in the 2015 session, several dental bills have been introduced at the Capitol, one of which Sen. Rosen authored that used the stakeholders’ recommendations as the basis for her bill.

For those of us who have long advocated for improving state dental programs, this year’s legislature may represent the best opportunity we’ve had in decades to bring essential issues to light and mount a long-term, sustained effort in addressing our state’s neglected dental programs. Recent approaches toward leadership in the business sector recognize the power of collaboration among employees and it appears that perhaps we in the dental community are beginning to witness this reality as well.

My hope is that the collective expertise on all aspects of public dental programs is tapped to the fullest degree over the next several years, setting Minnesota on a path to become a leader in oral health care, just as it is perceived nationally as a leader in general health care. At that point, I hope we’ll remember to thank Senator Rosen for helping set us on a winning path. Most importantly, we’ll have worked together, effectively driven by a sense of professionalism – that our patients’ needs are central to our work.


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New Year Update

As 2014 ends and 2015 begins I am proud to report on what has been a year of many milestones for the Minnesota Oral Health Coalition (MOHC). In June we welcomed Nancy Franke Wilson as MOHC’s first Executive Director. Under Nancy’s leadership we have gained official 501(c)(3) status, participated in a retreat with leaders of oral health coalitions from North Dakota and South Dakota, and implemented many other structural organizational advances not possible before Nancy’s arrival. While we look forward to 2015 with the knowledge that much work lies ahead, I am struck by the progress we have made. Over the past year several articles on oral health, workforce and other dental issues have appeared in Minnesota media, and in the New York Times and other mainstream media sources. And as I opened my Yahoo email account today a news headline flashed: “5 Scary Health Conditions Your Dentist Can Spot: The Health of Your Mouth May Shine a Light on What’s Happening in the Rest of Your Body.” When I entered the world of public health dentistry 15 years ago, I recall blank stares as I relayed the risks of poor oral health to constituents; but today at the agency I direct we receive an average of one call per day from a school, funding partner, policy maker or other local or national entity asking for assistance on oral health issues. These advances certainly did not occur without significant effort; I am grateful for all of you and your work “shining a light” on the importance of oral health in Minnesota and farther afield. We at MOHC look forward to another year of our collaboration with you and our work together in improving the oral health of all.

-May the New Year find you warm and in good health!

Sarah Wovcha, MOHC President

Posted in MOHC News

Welcome to the Minnesota Oral Health Coalition (MOHC)

“Hello and welcome to the Minnesota Oral Health Coalition (MOHC).  We are so happy you have decided to join us.”  All new members to the MOHC receive a letter that starts with those words and the meaning behind them is very significant.

The MOHC is undergoing many changes and over forty new members since June is only one of them.  In June, MOHC hired me as its first Executive Director. My name is Nancy Franke Wilson and if we haven’t met yet I hope to meet you soon.  In September we gained our 501c3 status as an independent nonprofit organization.  In October we hosted the Policy Consensus Tool exercise and identified five top policy items on which the coalition will focus. This month we will hold elections in preparation of our Annual Meeting and Oral Health Summit on December 5th. All of this and you are reading our first blog on the newly launched Minnesota Oral Health Coalition website. To say these are exciting times for the MOHC is an understatement.

While we celebrate the changes and growth in the last few months, we didn’t get here easily and without much, much work from a group of very special people. Since 2009, Merry Jo Thoele and her staff at the Minnesota Department of Health’s Oral Health Program joined forces with a group of dedicated health professionals in Minnesota to start the MOHC.  In 2011, the MOHC held the first board of director elections. Some of those board members elected then are still serving today. We have received financial assistance from Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation and the Otter Bremer Foundation.  These individuals and organizations, with support from MDH, brought the MOHC to life and not only kept it alive, but nurtured it, breathing life into it for nearly 5 years.

Whether you are one of our founding members or have just joined today you are a part of something much bigger than each of us.  You are a part of a movement, an organization that represents all people with a passion for oral health in Minnesota.  You are a part of a growing organization that is planning to be around a very long time and make a significant difference in oral health in our state.

So, no matter when you joined us we will never stop saying, “Hello and welcome to the Minnesota Oral Health Coalition (MOHC).  We are so happy you have decided to join us.”  We really are.

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