On April 21-22, 2011, a historic statewide Arizona American Indian Oral Health Summit was held at the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation Resort located on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. This was the first time in Arizona history that multi-agencies sponsored a statewide American Indian Oral Health Summit. The purpose of the summit was to increase oral health literacy and determine if there was interest among tribal leaders to move forward together to improve oral health. At the conclusion of the Summit, tribal leaders and other stakeholders decided to take action and recommended that an Arizona American Indian Oral Health Coalition be established. In coincidence, DentaQuest Foundation announced its Oral Health 2014 Initiative; it was designed to provide $100,000 in grant support to statewide oral health coalition building planning activities.
In October 2011, the Statewide Planning Committee and the Arizona Dental Foundation were notified that the Arizona American Indian Oral Health proposal had been selected as one of 20 programs to be funded across the Nation. That was the beginning of the Arizona American Indian Oral Health Initiative (AAIOHI), the only coalition project engaged to address a specific American Indian population. The Oral Health 2014 grant provided staffing and support for a series of regional Tribal Leader’s Round Tables. Between December 2011 and June 2012, Round Tables were held in six areas throughout the state. After much thought by the tribal communities, it was decided each tribe should have a local tribal oral health coalition.
In June 2014, eight Arizona tribes, the Colorado River Indian Tribe, the Hopi Tribe, the Hualapai Tribe, the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indian Tribe, the Navajo Nation, the San Carlos Apache Tribe, the Tohono O’odham Tribe and the the White Mountain Apache Tribe, gathered to form the Statewide Executive Committee (SEC). The goal of the SEC was to meet on a quarterly basis discussing oral health issues within their respective tribes, sharing current oral health models implemented and action plans to develop their own tribally lead oral health coalition. The AAIOHI continues to work with Arizona tribes assisting them in developing oral health coalitions in their communities and elevating oral health in Indian country.
The AAIOHI held a Summit 2.0 “Bridging the Gap” on October 7-8, 2014, in Phoenix, Arizona, to share update tribes and oral health stakeholders on current issues of oral health in Indian country. From this Summit it was requested by tribes that the focus of the next conference would be on workforce. Thus resulting in the Dental Health Aide Therapist Symposium, a one-day educational forum about this mid-level provider model was held on March 31, 2015, in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Statewide Executive Committee continues to grow adding an Urban Indian Phoenix, representative from Native American Connections. In the fall of 2015, the AAIOHI will hold an Arizona Oral Health Legislative Forum, to discuss current oral health disparities, data gathering, current oral health Medicaid coverage and workforce models.