Community-based oral health efforts get a $520,000 funding boost from Arcora Foundation

18 organizations receive grants and sponsorships to help address most pressing health needs. 

A request, a need, and a solution. 

In 2021, a client at Seattle’s Tubman Center for Health & Freedom‘s Blaxinate Lounge shared about her untreated oral health concerns. Because the Tubman Health team treated her with respect and empathy, she asked if one of them could accompany her to the dentist. 

This client interaction inspired the team to develop the new Tubman Guides program. It honors this community member and other clients who asked for help to improve their care experiences. Tubman Guides will provide care coordination, emotional support and advocacy, and other wrap-around services to Black community members in Central and South Seattle. Their goal is to promote access to care for people pushed to the margins of the health care system. Navigators—especially those who reflect the communities they serve—play a key role to connect people to care.

Programs like this not only recognize that oral health is essential to overall health, but also the importance of centering solutions to people’s most pressing health issues within the communities where they live. 

A commitment to community-driven solutions. 

At Arcora Foundation, our health equity framework includes the reallocation of power and resources to community-led efforts to prevent oral disease and improve access to care. As part of this work, we’re honored to award $520,000 in grants and sponsorships to Tubman Center for Health & Freedom and 17 other incredible community-based organizations to help more people reach their full health potential. 

These funds will support projects and events that aim to advance good oral health through one or more of the following approaches: 

  • Increase access to dental care. 
  • Motivate behavior change. 
  • Address systemic barriers. 

“We truly appreciate Arcora’s critical seed money to create an innovative community health worker program that will support the needs of medically marginalized community members and also connect community health practitioners to good-paying jobs with opportunities for career progression.” 

Julie Chinitz, Director of Development, Tubman Center for Health & Freedom

Expanded partnerships through funding. 

More than 80 organizations applied for this round of funding. We selected recipients, in part, based on how well the project intends to narrow disparity gaps—particularly Black, Indigenous, and communities of color where disparities in oral health are significant. Other factors included the project’s community of focus, the geographic location, the alignment with Arcora’s mission, and available budget. Congratulations to our latest funding recipients: 

We continue to evolve as an organization, including how we reallocate our resources through grants and ongoing sponsorship funding. We thank all the organizations who took time to provide feedback and insights during this latest grant cycle. Sign up for our newsletter to be notified of upcoming funding opportunities and other timely information.  

Partnerships are essential to advance oral health across Washington state. Grantmaking and sponsorship funding are one of the many ways Arcora supports community-based efforts to improve oral and overall health, with no one left behind. To learn more about our partnerships and initiatives, click here.

Fluoridated water: A cost-effective way to boost dental health in underserved communities

This article was originally published in The Seattle Times.

By Arcora Foundation | November 30, 2022

Access to regular dental care, a healthy diet and fluoridated water are key factors that determine healthy teeth. When we’re able to obtain the right balance of fluoride in our drinking water, it strengthens our tooth enamel and reduces decay. However, some water supplies don’t contain enough fluoride to help protect teeth against cavities, so a process known as “fluoridation” is used by water systems throughout the U.S. to adjust the fluoride to an optimal level.

Fluoride, also known as “nature’s cavity fighter,” is a mineral that’s found in Washington’s rivers, lakes and Puget Sound. An overwhelming majority of American health experts encourage brushing twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste and drinking water with fluoride to prevent cavities. Fluoridated water also provides a cost-effective way to boost oral health in underserved communities that too often experience barriers to accessing preventive dental care.

Dr. Sue Yoon, Chief Dental Officer, Community Health Center of Snohomish County, has seen firsthand the difference fluoridated water can make. “I did my residency training in Hawaii, where fluoridated water is not available,” Yoon says. “It was incredible, the extent of decay in our patient population. Sadly, Hawaii has one of the highest cavity rates in our country.” Yoon points out that while fluoridated water is just one layer of protection, it does have an impact. “Fortunately, now where I currently practice in Everett, there is community water fluoridation. It’s one of the easiest cavity prevention strategies we can recommend to our patients — just drink your tap water.”

Dr. Russell Maier, M.D. FAAFP, a family physician and associate dean for Graduate Medical Education at Pacific Northwest University in Yakima, cites fluoridated water as one of the top 10 public health measures in the last century. He says it’s “cheap, safe and effective” — and a way to give everyone access, “if we care to help communities with barriers.”

“When we look at health, there are things we can’t control around our genetics,” Maier explains. “Then there are social determinants over which we have some control.” He uses the example of Americans previously experiencing consistent thyroid problems, which was solved by adding iodine to our salt. Now, he says, you hardly ever see issues developing due to a lack of iodine. Along those same lines, after the U.S. began adding supplements to our cereal and milk, health problems caused by a lack of those minerals and vitamins disappeared.

“Adding fluoride to water is a way to reach the entire population, especially those at the greatest risk and who wouldn’t get it otherwise,” Maier says.

When Maier moved to Yakima in the early 1990s, the city’s water system was not fluoridated. As a health care provider, he simply assumed it was, as many people do. He learned he was wrong, he started a local campaign to fluoridate the water, which proved successful.

This effort currently follows a single-water system approach, Maier observes, though he believes a systemic method would prove more effective. “We can keep going one city at a time,” he says, “though statewide efforts show the most success.”

Ileana Ponce-Gonzalez, MD, MPH, president and executive director of Community Health Worker (CHW) Coalition for Migrants and Refugees, is passionate about the work her organization does. The statewide nonprofit, with its headquarters in Edmonds, aims to “meet the needs of underserved communities by creating sustainable opportunities, implementing innovative solutions and cultivating productive partnerships.”

Among their many offerings, the organization’s Oral Health Program works toward prevention in dental health disparities, conducting workshops that share preventive information on oral health.

“Fluoride is not everywhere now,” Ponce-Gonzalez says, explaining why it is more common to notice residents of rural areas covering their mouths when they speak because they are embarrassed by tooth loss or decay. Her teams teach the benefits of fluoride and share that people can talk to their doctor or dentist about fluoride supplements. “Unfortunately, people who live in areas with no fluoride don’t know that,” she says. “It’s important to know because it can prevent infection and tooth loss.”

The impact of cavities extends beyond dental health, for both children and adults, Yoon says. “Early childhood cavities often lead to pain and infection, then treatment needed under sedation. Even as an adult, untreated cavities can cause toothaches that are debilitating. Anyone who has experienced an abscessed tooth knows that it is impossible to function normally until that gets treated.”

The CHW’s Ponce-Gonzalez works with are independent contractors who then serve the needs of farmworkers. “Our model is that we work with trusted members of the community,” Ponce-Gonzalez explains, “and train them in oral health.” She says it’s especially important to pass along the knowledge they do for the sake of the community’s children and those with chronic conditions.

Education creates a domino effect. Ponce-Gonzalez offers the example of two CHWs in Yakima training 25 people from various families; those folks will in turn go home and share the information with their friends and family. “Educating our community is also social justice,” she says.

A dentist who has worked with underserved communities for over a decade, Yoon also supports efforts to spread accurate information on preventive care, emphasizing the role fluoride plays in their work to equip patients with the tools they need for health. “I would love to see more efforts put toward preventive measures. When working with my patients, I’ve yet to meet one who would rather undergo a procedure, instead of preventing the need for it.”

To learn more about community water fluoridation in Washington state, visit

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  

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.