Alissa Leigh, Dr. Alice Horowitz, Dr. Joe  Alderman

Dr. Horowitz' granddaughter Alissa Leigh, Dr. Alice Horowitz, Dr. Joe  Alderman, Executive Director, American Board of Dental Public Health

October 22, 2014

Dr. Alice Horowitz, research associate professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health and the Herschel S. Horowitz Center for Health Literacy at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, received honorary membership from the American Dental Association (ADA) on October 13, 2014.

One of four to receive honorary membership at the ADA 2014 annual meeting, Dr. Horowitz was recognized for her longstanding work on oral health literacy, and particularly her mentorship of dental health professionals on how to best communicate with patients.

“Throughout my career, I have focused on primary prevention of oral diseases – especially dental caries and oral cancers,” Dr. Horowitz said in remarks given at the ADA conference. “My focus on oral health literacy is based on available research and on the belief that increased health literacy can and does make a difference for the public’s overall health and wellness. This is especially true for vulnerable populations.”

In her presentation, Dr. Horowitz urged the ADA to continue its “leadership role” in community water fluoridation, which helps prevent cavities and other oral health problems, as well as to increase the oral health literacy of the public, health professionals, policymakers and health facilities. In Dr. Horowitz’s research, she has found that many people, particularly low-income populations, do not understand the importance of obtaining fluoride through drinking water, and may miss out on its dental health benefits by consuming bottled water.

Later in the conference, the ADA’s House of Delegates debated funding a $500,000 water fluoridation campaign and quoted Dr. Horowitz’s remarks as support for funding the program. The ADA’s House of Delegates ultimately voted to fund the fluoridation campaign.

Dr. Horowitz began her career as a dental hygienist and started volunteering in the community at that time, which cemented her interest in primary prevention. She developed a greater understanding of public health through working with the Head Start program, while employed by the U.S. Public Health Service. Dr. Horowitz brought her strong interest in prevention and community-based programs to her work as a senior scientist at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Health (NIDCR), where she helped develop community-based programs in preventing tooth decay.

More recently, at the University of Maryland’s Horowitz Center for Health Literacy, Dr. Horowitz co-authored an Institute of Medicine discussion paper in July 2014, which advocates for dentists to provide patients with written "after visit summaries," a document that provides relevant and actionable information and instructions, and suggests that this is an important tool to help improve oral health and general health literacy for all patients.

In her remarks at the ADA conference, Dr. Horowitz emphasized the link between oral health and overall health and encouraged practitioners to educate their patients, as well as to incorporate the IOM’s “Ten Attributes of a Health Literate Organization,” within their own practice, to reduce health disparities and help achieve oral health equity.

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