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Intersecting Inequities: Linking tobacco use to oral health disparities among Blacks and Latinx

Institution: University of California, Merced
Investigator(s): Tashelle Wright,
Award Cycle: 2019 (Cycle 30) Grant #: T30DT0825 Award: $107,757
Subject Area: Tobacco-Use Prevention and Cessation
Award Type: Dissertation Awards

Initial Award Abstract
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and tobacco use is the main risk factor associated with destructive periodontal disease and oral cancer (2019). Oral health disparities and poor oral health outcomes in the San Joaquin Valley (SJV) are often overlooked as the SJV is a high need, low resource region of California. For those who use tobacco products, the outcomes are worse, in particularly in Black and Latino/a communities. Populations in the SJV are vulnerable to tobacco-related oral health problems due to limited access to dental care services, including preventative screenings and cleanings. The use of electronic smoking devices (e.g. e-cigarettes, vaping devices) is becoming increasingly common among adolescents and young adults and providers in the SJV have begun seeing the harmful effects to mouth health, especially among teens. Concerns about tobacco use have grown to not only include traditional cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, but to include a wide array of electronic devices that target youth and young adults in rural, communities of color. In order to understand more about the tobacco and oral health environments and the factors that link these two topics, dental care providers and individuals representing both government agencies and community-based organizations were identified through oral health advisory board members from three San Joaquin Valley counties in California. Perceptions and challenges of the oral health environment for older adults in the counties were explored through ninety in-depth interviews. These results were used in three oral health needs assessments. I will be conducting thirty in-depth interviews with community members to better understand their perceptions of tobacco use and oral health, as these may be different than the perspectives of previous interviewees. I will then compare responses across the groups to determine similarities, differences and common themes. The results will help us understand how Black and Latino/a community members and providers of all types discuss the link between oral health and tobacco. This will inform the design of appropriate oral health interventions. Research results will be presented to community members, providers and community stakeholders, including public health departments.