Hawaii community focus groups determine priorities for oral health research

Honolulu, HawaiiThe oral health status of people in Hawaii is poor, possibly the worst in the nation. However, comprehensive oral epidemiological studies have not been done. The presence of many ethnic groups, blending of ethnicities, and the lack of universal water fluoridation may contribute to this situation.

Rosanne Harrigan and co-workers at the University of Hawaii took on the task of determining the community's and oral care providers' perceptions of the problem of oral health and their priorities for further research. Eight one-hour focus groups (10 people each) were held in five communities to explore the oral health perceptions of community members and providers. Hawaiian, Filipino, Chinese, and other Pacific Island populations were studied. The groups were language- and culturally sensitive and attentive to the needs and health status of the participants and the communities they represented. Sessions were audiotaped and analyzed by SPSS TextSmart software to generate major themes: attitudes, beliefs, oral health behaviors, genetic factors, and access to services.

Agreement existed across cultures that community-based oral health research studies focused on tangible oral health problems, including intervention trials, are appropriate strategies to address oral health concerns. Community involvement in the design and implementation of oral health investigations in Hawaii is essential. The Hawaiian, Filipino, Chinese, and other Pacific Island populations studied share the belief that research focused on oral health services to the community is crucial to the reduction in oral disease, as well as in reaching the goal of eliminating disparities in oral health, which is known to exist among population subgroups in Hawaii.


Contact: Linda Hemphill
International & American Association for Dental Research

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