I recently had a proud moment that surprised me. During an incredible keynote address at the National Oral Health Conference in Cincinnati with a panel of experienced people, it was brought up that access to oral health for kids is improving over time. The “curve” is turning in the right direction. We have not arrived at the goal, but the trend is moving in the right direction.

Part of this positive trend was attributed to this new “network” of people all across America. The network, which is made up of many non-dental experts, including advocates, grassroots organizers, and others are talking about the need for better oral health.

I am part of the network and have been for over a decade. Ever since I first heard about the social justice issues surrounding poor oral health and conducted focus groups with parents about the needs they were encountering – I became part of the network – part of the collective.

During this panel discussion in Cincinnati, the concepts of “collective impact”, “results based leadership”, and “network weaving” came alive to me. I felt proud to be part of the solution. It takes the efforts of many to make change – providers on the ground with families and policy advocates in the state capitols.

As a child advocate, the slow pace of social change can be maddening and discouraging. But it is times like the one described, that keep us going, give us hope, and encourage us to keep up the work of promoting health equity, ensuring access to care, and improving the quality and success of children’s lives.

So, I was proud and now I will continue on my mission to work on behalf of kids and their families…