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Oral Health Surveillance Plan 2021-2025

The Illinois Oral Health Surveillance Plan provides a strategic approach to the development and implementation of Illinois oral health surveillance system. The infrastructure for this system was implemented in 2020 and continues to evolve with new measures added and existing measures refined. The plan aligns with the Illinois Oral Health Plan IV: Eliminating Inequities in Oral Health (2021 – 2025) and Healthy People 2030 (HP2030) Oral Conditions Objectives.

The goal of the surveillance system is to monitor state-specific, population‐based oral disease burden and trends, measure changes in program capacity and community water fluoridation quality. This information is vital to assist organizations throughout the state to plan, to implement, and to evaluate appropriate interventions that will truly improve the oral health of Illinoisans.

Overarching objectives of the Illinois Oral Health Plan IV and other oral health programs will be monitored through both long-term and short-term indicators. Indicators include the following groupings:

  • Oral Health Outcomes
  • Dental Caries
  • Behavioral Health Risks
  • Infrastructure
  • Oral Health Workforce
  • Population Health
  • Other

The Purpose of Public Health Surveillance

The 1988 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on the future of public health outlines three core functions for public health: assessment, policy development, and assurance. In that report (updated in 2003), the IOM recommended every public health agency regularly and systematically collect, assemble, analyze, and disseminate information on community health status to carry out the assessment function. Public health agencies accomplish this task through public health surveillance -- the ongoing, systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of health data. Public health surveillance, and as such oral health surveillance, is essential for planning, implementing, and evaluating public health practice and, ideally, is closely integrated with data dissemination to public health decision makers and other stakeholders. The overarching purpose of public health surveillance is to provide actionable health information to guide public health policy and programs.

CDC guidelines for evaluating public health surveillance systems recommend health-related events (in this case oral diseases and conditions) be considered for surveillance if they affect many people, require large expenditures of resources, are largely preventable, and are of public health importance. Based on these criteria, oral health outcomes, associated health behaviours, and other factors linked to oral health are included in the Illinois Oral Health Surveillance System.

According to the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE), a state oral health surveillance system (OHSS) should provide information necessary for public health decision making by routinely collecting data on oral health outcomes, access to care, risk factors and intervention strategies for the whole population, representative samples of the population, or priority subpopulations. In addition, a state OHSS should consider collecting information on the oral health workforce, infrastructure, financing, and policies impacting oral health outcomes. A state OHSS can access data from existing sources, supplemented by additional information, such as data from a basic screening survey, to fill data gaps.

Surveillance systems are not just data collection systems. They must include mechanisms to:

  • communicate findings to those responsible for programmatic and policy decisions and to the public
  • assure data are used to inform and to evaluate public health measures to prevent and to control oral diseases and conditions

In addition, according to the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors’ Best Practice Report on State Based Oral Health Surveillance Systems, a state oral health surveillance system should:

  • have an oral health surveillance plan
  • define a clear purpose and objectives relating to the use of surveillance data for public health action
  • include a core set of measures/indicators to serve as benchmarks for assessing progress in achieving good oral health
  • analyze trends
  • communicate surveillance data to decision makers and the public in a timely manner
  • strive to assure surveillance data is used to improve the oral health of state residents

Oral diseases or conditions, also referred to as oral health outcomes, are influenced by a variety of factors, including access to dental care and the cost to individuals to obtain it, individual risk factors and risk determinants, availability of interventions, workforce issues, public health infrastructure, and public policies. Oral health surveillance system is needed to identify population needs, protect and promote population-wide oral health, and monitor the impact of those efforts.