During May, we’re celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In a post earlier this month, we showed you how we collaborate with health leaders to advance oral and overall health for Washington’s AAPI populations. In this post, dentist and Arcora Foundation Board Trustee Dr. Ji Hyung Choi shows you how he expanded access to care with the Foundation’s support.  

Lived experience influences quality of care.

I am a first generation Asian American who grew up in Eastern Washington. I have experienced first-hand the difficulties our Asian American and Pacific Islander populations face in accessing culturally competent dental care in some counties. These access barriers are especially challenging for our Pacific Islander neighbors.

My ability to speak Korean and understand the culture helped many Asian patients seek care at the locations I served. Knowing they were receiving treatment from someone who understood their culture and could communicate in their native language put them at ease. 

As a clinician, I attended numerous AAPI health fairs and local events. The aim of these events was to: 

  • Promote good oral health and diet. 
  • Offer information on how to access care where the patients live. 
  • Provide oral health screenings. 
  • Assess any oral health needs they might have. 

Breaking down barriers: Arcora advances oral and overall health for all.

Arcora Foundation has always supported many of these events. Through oral health prevention and access initiatives, the Foundation is on a mission to bend the arc of oral health toward equity across Washington state. As with AAPI people, oral health care disparities exist for others. Data from the Foundation helps tell that story, so we know who needs additional resources to reach their full health potential:

  • Access to oral health care across the state and who faces barriers.  
  • Percent of people with dental insurance
  • Health disparities in the state’s racial/ethnic groups like AAPI populations; for example, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander 2nd and 3rd graders experience decay at a rate of 75%—the highest of any racial/ethnic group in the region. 

In addition to providing these important data, Arcora Foundation has invested heavily to advance oral health. Since 2017, community, nonprofit, and tribal clinics received $10 million in grant funds to support dental care and oral health projects at to serve more patients—particularly Black, Indigenous and People of Color who experience oral health disparities and face challenges accessing dental care.

This funding supported health centers across the state, including the one where I worked. It also resulted in nearly 108,000 patient visits since 2017. Community and tribal dental clinics affected by COVID-19 received an additional $4.5 million in 2020.

Oral disease is mostly preventable. The work of organizations like Arcora Foundation makes more healthy smiles possible.

Headshot of Dr. Ji Hyung Choi
Photo: Dr. Ji Hyung Choi

Dr. Choi is a dental educator and the Chief Dental Officer at Columbia Basin Health Association—a Federally Qualified Health Center providing care to financially and socioeconomically underserved populations.