Community based participatory research approaches to combat oral health inequities among American Indian and Alaska Native populations

Carolyn Camplain, Christine Kirby, Steven D. Barger, Heather Thomas, Marissa Tutt, Kristan Elwell, Sara Young, Gerlinda Morrison, Stephanie Hyeoma, Julie A. Baldwin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities have experienced a history of systemic racism and still face significant oral health disparities. These disparities extend to the youngest community members in the form of early childhood caries (ECC). Although behavior and biology contribute to ECC, the conditions where people live, grow, and work, and the systems and political and economic forces that shape individual health outcomes, are thought to greatly impact ECC among AI/AN populations. To address ECC in AI/AN communities, we used a community based participatory approach that incorporated social determinants of health. We found that implementing culturally-tailored, culturally-centered, and AI/AN-created materials for ECC interventions is viewed favorably by community members and tribal leaders. Because of the complexity of ECC in AI/AN communities we adopted a bundled approach of best practices to reduce ECC including: (1) incorporating locally, contextually, and culturally relevant strategies to present recommended ECC prevention approaches; (2) employing AI/AN community members as educators; (3) utilizing motivational interviewing with expectant mothers; and (4) providing fluoride varnish. Our work underscores the importance of developing trusting partnerships with each other and with our communities, drawing upon the insights of community advisory board members, and eliciting formative assessment data from tribal members to gain a more holistic understanding of our participants' lived experience to design relevant intervention materials. Incorporating local knowledge and situating Western oral health prevention approaches within culturally aligned frameworks can enhance partnerships and create sustainable materials for community work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-82
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Public Health Dentistry
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022


  • American Indian/Alaska Native
  • community based participatory research
  • early childhood caries
  • indigenous health
  • oral health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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