Community expertise guides our engagement strategy

Arcora Foundation Associate Program Officer Matt Gonzalez shares how community-based organizations guide our work to support the oral and overall health of Latinx community members. 

Two Arcora Foundation staff members are dressed in summer party attire. To the right of them is the Tooth Fairy in a green dress and wings. They are standing in front of a brightly colored event tent.

Photo caption: Sharing smiles at the Latino Expo in Lynnwood this summer, hosted by the Latino Educational Training Institute (LETI). From left to right: Matt Gonzalez, Associate Program Officer; Nicole Hood, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Manager; and Alex the Tooth Fairy from the Tooth Fairy Experience. 

I’m what you’d call a people person. Whether in person or over Zoom, I love connecting with organizations across the state to learn how we can best support your efforts to improve oral and overall health. And if we can have these conversations over a cup of coffee or good meal—even better. 

Relationships are truly at the center of all we do. Arcora Foundation’s 2022-2024 strategic plan centers our work in equity to achieve good oral and overall health for all. And this plan won’t become a reality unless we take meaningful steps to center people with lived experiences in it.

Over the past year, Arcora provided several Community Learning Grants to learn more about communities’ strengths and challenges. The goal is to of gather community-based solutions to oral health problems. These engagements helped us strengthen relationships with new and existing partners, as well as learn what efforts are going well—and where we can do better. 

Leveraging community strengths to forward racial equity.

I’ve had the privilege and joy to connect with many of you during my time at Arcora. As my current role grows, so do my opportunities to show up at community events and build one-on-one relationships with amazing Hispanic and Latinx-led organizations. 

Data shows that Hispanic children have a 50 percent higher rate of untreated decay than their white classmates. I want to stress that this disparity does not mean Hispanic communities have inherent failures. Rather, these disparities represent longstanding failures in our health care and racial justice systems, and countless missed chances to let the strengths of those with lived experience guide decision making. 

More than 500,000 people in Washington state speak Spanish at home. Without linguistically appropriate care, many may not be able to access the resources they need. In the U.S., 42 percent of undocumented individuals don’t have health insurance—compared to just 8 percent of citizens. Through programs like the SmileMobile, we work to fill the care gap for Washington’s uninsured and migrant populations. But it’s community-based partnerships that will really drive progress in our initiatives and state policymaking.

Partnerships bring about possibility.

Logo for Latino Educational Training Institute

The Latino Education Training Institute (LETI) provides ongoing work in education and training, health and safety, economic development, and community development, emphasizing first-generation Latino immigrants in Snohomish and Skagit County. Arcora is privileged to be partnering with LETI through grant funding, community events, SmileMobile clinics, and more.

I had a chance to chat with Marisol Bejarano, Health & Wellness Coordinator at LETI, about their partnership with Arcora and how funders can support community-based organizations as they make meaningful progress toward equity.

How has Arcora Foundation supported LETI?

“Our partnership with Arcora Foundation has allowed LETI to have a more extensive outreach within the community by offering additional services in high demand. Arcora supports our community programs, events, and programs that help ensure that we can continue our work within the community. 

“In our Latino community, it’s no secret that there is a considerable gap when it comes to dental resources as well as other health resources. That’s why we were more than happy to say “yes” when LETI was offered the opportunity to host the SmileMobile van at our Lynnwood location. 

“Oral health is such an essential aspect of overall well-being, and it was an excellent opportunity for our community to get started in their oral health journey after many years of not having the opportunity to see a dentist.”  

What advice do you have for other funders looking to support community-based efforts? 

“Don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Small organizations are often passed over because it can be harder to connect with them, as we have limited staff and space, unlike larger organizations. Our advice is to be persistent, patient, and flexible in connecting with organizations that work hand-in-hand with the local community—a community that larger organizations may not be able to reach. 

“Likewise, small organizations shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to larger organizations or funders with the needs of their community. Often, larger organizations are looking to be more involved in the community but don’t know how to do it. Be diligent in advocating for your community because no one will understand it better than you. 

“Thank you to Arcora Foundation for the support and trust in community programs and outreach. Organizations like yours help LETI continue to work within our community to help educate, empower, and support those who need it most!” 

Arcora Foundation’s approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion work is based on three interrelated parts: learning, operationalizing, and partnering. Our engagements with organizations and community members don’t end after one event or listening session. In this approach, we continuously integrate feedback into our work. What’s most important is that we are a thoughtful and beneficial partner in helping more people achieve their full health potential. 

Shared goals for positive change.

In this work, I’ve learned that “you must go slow to go fast” are words to live by. Building valuable, two-way relationships takes time. Once those relationships are formed, we can be more efficient in our shared goals and desires for positive change. This is especially true when the perception might be foundations and grant makers have unbalanced power dynamics or covert agendas. Many of our deepest partnerships have grown over years if not decades. In this time, we’ve learned to listen with an openness to change—and have community expertise guide how the relationship develops. 

I look forward to meeting with more of you—and perhaps sharing some good coffee and food in the process. If you have any questions or ideas on how we can support your work, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at MGonzalez@ArcoraFoundation.org.  

About Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) takes place September 15 to October 15 every year as a time to recognize and celebrate the many contributions, diverse cultures, and extensive histories of the American Latino community. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 2022 is focused on “Building Prosperous and Healthy Communities.” Arcora Foundation honors the diverse people and cultures who make up Washington state’s Latinx communities in our work to build healthier futures for all, with no one left behind.

Juneteenth celebrates freedom

The holiday points to need for continued work toward oral health equity.

Juneteenth—or June 19—is this weekend. It commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. and is considered the longest-running African American holiday. I hope your celebrations are filled with joy, community, and remembrance. 

The legacy of slavery in our country is long, complex, and painful. Racism and other systems have created barriers and disparities—especially for Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC)—in education, housing, income, and health care. These and other social, economic, and environmental factors—known as social determinants of health—have major effects on overall health and health outcomes. 

Disparities show the need for equity. 

When it comes to oral health in Washington state, research shows some residents—BIPOC people in particular—have opportunities for healthier smiles. For example, among second and third graders, Black children experience untreated tooth decay at a rate of 18 percent. That is nearly twice the rate among white children—10%. Among people 18 and older, 41% of Black adults had at least one permanent tooth removed compared to 36% of white adults. And among people 55 and older, 74% of Black adults had at least one permanent tooth removed compared to roughly 50% of white adults.  

At Arcora, we center our work in equity to achieve good oral health for all. We work with partners to ensure everyone can enjoy good oral and overall health with no one left behind. 

Support for communities through partnerships.  

We are excited to partner with Women of Wisdom Tri-Cities to raise awareness about good oral health at a Juneteenth celebration in Eastern Washington this year. Women of Wisdom is a charitable human services organization in Richland that serves BIPOC people in the region. 

“Women of Wisdom is partnering with Arcora Foundation to bring social justice and equity surrounding oral health care to Eastern Washington,” said Chauné Fitzgerald, CEO of Women of Wisdom Tri-Cities. “Our goal is to change the trajectory of oral health so that, in the future, everyone can enjoy the benefits of good oral health,” she said. 

Arcora is supplying Women of Wisdom with oral hygiene kits—which include toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss—to distribute for free at the Juneteenth event. The focus is to provide oral health and other resources—like vaccinations, grocery cards, and health education—to people who are low income and underserved. 

“We are working with Arcora Foundation to bring access and awareness to oral health care and oral disease prevention,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re striving for 100% access and no disparities,” she said.  

Freedom is a bedrock principle of our country. For Black people, Juneteenth represents the difficult journey toward freedom that continues to this day. Freedom includes the ability to reach your full health potential. Arcora is proud to support our partners who continue this journey. They help make our communities more equitable for everyone—especially BIPOC people—where they live, learn, work, worship, and play. 

Vanetta Abdellatif
President and CEO, Arcora Foundation

Culturally appropriate care helps expand dental access

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
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.

Collaboration leads to better health outcomes for the AAPI community

During May, we’re celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In a post, we share you how we collaborate with local health leaders to advance oral and overall health for Washington’s AAPI populations.

Our state is home to over 1 million people who identify as Asian or Pacific Islander. Though the collective term AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) has grown in popularity, Arcora Foundation recognizes the diverse backgrounds and cultures that make up Washington’s AAPI communities.  

Our 2022–2024 strategic plan focuses our prevention and access work in communities where disparities are significant—specifically Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). The latest Washington State Smile Survey shows that while children’s oral health has improved overall, Pacific Islander children face the highest rates of untreated tooth decay among all races. In fact, Pacific Islander children experience tooth decay at rates over 2.5 times higher than their white classmates. 

Everyone deserves good oral health. Through localized partnerships, Arcora Foundation supports health equity in Asian and Pacific Islander communities. 

Local Impact Networks put communities first.

This year’s theme for AAPI Heritage Month is “Advancing Leaders through Collaboration.” Health equity advances with partnerships. It takes collaboration among organizations of all sizes and sectors. Arcora Foundation looks to local leaders to guide community-focused efforts, as these leaders understand the nuances and strengths of their communities best. 

Our Local Impact Networks (LINs) bring committed partners together to improve health equity and local systems of care. The LIN model emphasizes meeting community members where they are—including local libraries and community events—to learn about their experiences and ideas. 

Hear from two of our LIN partners to learn how they are supporting the oral and overall health of AAPI community members. 

Pierce County

“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have enriched our history and culture. However, the diversity between AAPI communities means marked disparities and inequities in medical and dental access and outcomes in those communities. 

“For years, we have partnered with dentists and hygienists to deliver screenings and treatments in school-based programs to ensure children receive early prevention and intervention regardless of income, insurance, race, or ethnicity. Throughout the pandemic and launch of our Local Impact Network, we enlisted multiple partners including Asia Pacific Cultural Center, Korean Women’s Association, and Pacific Islander Community Association of WA to help us reach, learn from, and engage communities.”  

Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH 
Director of Health, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department
 

Spokane County

“One of the driving forces in supporting CHAS Health’s mission of providing quality healthcare and improving the overall health of the Spokane community is our team of community health workers (CHWs). For example, our Marshallese CHWs play a key role in connecting health/social services to the community, increasing access to oral and other health services. Using shared experiences, language, and cultural understanding, our CHWs offer trustworthy support and reduce barriers to care.

“By offering services such as outreach, community education, informal counseling, social support, and advocacy, CHWs lay the groundwork and encouragement for increasing access to healthcare and improving the overall health of our communities.”

CHAS Health
Smile Spokane LIN Partne
r

It takes all of us to advance oral health equity. Learn more about our state’s Local Impact Networks and how you can get involved here.

Black History Month highlights need for good oral and overall health for Black people

My team and I are passionate about advancing oral health equity. Arcora Foundation’s mission is to bend the arc of oral health toward equity. The focus of our prevention and access work from our 2022-2024 strategic plan is in communities where disparities are significant—specifically Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).  

Black History Month (Feb. 1 – March 1) celebrates achievements and underscores opportunities. This year’s theme is Black health and wellness. The opportunity for Black people to reach our full health potential is essential, which includes resources to prevent oral disease and access to dental care. Everyone deserves a healthy smile. But not everyone has one. 

Data tell us disparities exist in oral disease prevention and oral health care access for Black people across the state. For example, among second and third graders, Black children experience untreated tooth decay at a rate of 18 percent. That is nearly twice the rate among white children—10 percent 

Through partnerships, programs, and other efforts, Arcora Foundation is helping more people—from all backgrounds and in all places across Washington state—enjoy good oral health.  

Partnerships play a pivotal role. 

We are excited to partner with Brittany Love to support healthy behaviors in communities of color. She is a fitness trainer focused on using movement and nutrition to promote self-care, self-love, and empowerment in Black and other communities of color. We recently awarded Love a grant to help her:  

  • Develop fitness videos that contain oral health messages.
  • Distribute oral hygiene kits to help people experiencing homelessness. 

Both projects will have a particular focus on BIPOC people across Western Washington. 

Love believes everyone should have access to health and wellness resources. That is why she plans to make her fitness videos, which integrate oral health messages into her promotion of overall wellness, available for free online. Greater opportunities exist in communities of color that are underserved and under resourced. 

“I want to give people as many tools as possible to be the best versions of themselves,” Love said. 

Through her own health and wellness journey, Love came to understand the importance of a holistic approach to good health. Now, she wants to give back. Through partnerships with companies and organizations—like Arcora Foundation—she will help spread messages about good overall health to communities of color. 

“Feeling good is a butterfly effect for other aspects of your life,” Love said. 

Arcora Foundation’s partnership with Love is one example of our commitment to look for more ways to deepen our work and focus on different BIPOC populations in communities across the state to bridge the oral health equity gap. This approach reflects our strategic direction to lead with equity. 

To stay up to date on our latest grant and sponsorship opportunities for your organization, subscribe to Arcora Foundation’s newsletter here. 

Oral health is essential to overall health. 

Oral disease is almost entirely preventable. An early start to good oral health habits is crucial for good overall health. Classroom instruction can be difficult if not impossible for a child suffering cavity pain. As an adult, it can be hard to get a job if you are missing teeth or keep a job if you are in pain from oral disease. The health of your mouth is one of the most visible indicators of economic inequality.   

Oral health is essential to overall health. Research shows links between poor oral health and serious or potentially life-threatening conditions. A few examples: 

  • Diabetes.  
  • Heart disease.  
  • Stroke.  
  • Pregnancy complications.  

When more people have healthy smiles, everyone benefits. Kids thrive in the classroom. Adults have better job opportunities. 

As we celebrate the richness of Black history this month and throughout the year, I encourage you to engage with work underway to ensure a healthier future for Black people and other communities of color.  

Vanetta Abdellatif
President and CEO, Arcora Foundation