Donald Chi, a practicing pediatric dentist, will use his Scholars award to help identify potential neighborhood interventions and policies to reduce tooth decay and improve the oral health of publicly insured adolescents. Tooth decay is the most common disease among adolescents. More than 60 percent of U.S. adolescents have had tooth decay and 20 percent have untreated decay and publicly insured adolescents are at increased risk. Untreated tooth decay can lead to invasive dental treatment, hospitalization, systemic infections, and—in rare cases— death. It may also affect later academic performance, employment, and health. Still, the specific mechanisms that link neighborhood social capital and oral health are unknown. Donald Chi, a practicing pediatric dentist, will use his Scholars award to help identify potential neighborhood interventions and policies to reduce tooth decay and improve the oral health of publicly insured adolescents. He will conduct a correlational two-level study with 330 youth, ages 12 to 17, from the Oregon Medicaid Program, their caregiver(s), and neighbors. Survey data will be collected to generate neighborhood-level social capital and other measures. Survey and clinical data (e.g., tooth decay, oral hygiene, gum health, cortisol) will be collected from adolescents and their caregiver(s). Through this project, Chi will develop expertise in how neighborhood-level factors influence oral health outcomes in socioeconomically vulnerable adolescents. He will be mentored by David Takeuchi, an expert in the social determinants of health disparities, and Kyle Crowder, who has expertise in residential segregation and how neighborhoods influence adolescent development. In later years of the award, Mitch Greenlick, an elected member of the Oregon House of Representatives, will advise Chi on ways to translate public health research into policy.
To what extent does neighborhood social capital influence dental health outcomes for publicly insured adolescents?