The Center for Rural Health Practice is coordinating a research site for the Center for Oral Health Research in Appalachia, a project of the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine.
Viewed from an ethnography perspective, Appalachia constitutes a unique American culture, often referred to as the "forgotten minority." It has been long recognized that children and adults in Appalachia, have significant oral health disparities compared with the general U.S. population. In 1998, 82.2% of children had dental caries by grade 10. In addition, these children received less dental treatment than the average for all US children. Oral health problems develop early in life among Appalachians, resulting in a trajectory of poor oral health over the life course.
The Center for Oral Health Research in Appalachia (COHRA) at the University of Pittsburgh responds to the need to understand the nature of this oral disease disparity and to respond with interventions aimed at reducing these disparities that are tailored to the needs of a rural, economically disadvantaged population. To accomplish this mission, COHRA has been organized around a unifying theme that can be summarized as a multifactorial, developmental characterization of person-environment interactions in children that result, over their life course, to the development of oral disease liability. Given the focus on children , COHRA has adopted the approach of a prospective paradigm to study children within families, with particular emphasis on how these families buffer or impart risk for oral disease in their children.
The overarching mission of COHRA is, through enhanced understanding of the nature of the person-environment interaction, to inform and implement effective community-based prevention programs aimed at the reduction of oral health disparities. Mindful of the need for culturally appropriate and targeted intervention at the community level, COHRA is strongly linked to the Appalachian community through organizations such as the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Rural Health Practice and, in West Virginia, the W.V. Rural Health Education Partnership.
The Center for Rural Health Practice will recruit 200 families in Northwest Pennsylvania for clinical (dental) examination, genetic analysis, and questionnaire completion. These families will be seen three times over the next seven years.