Advocacy work fulfils a key part of CDA’s strategic vision for promoting optimal oral health for Canadians. Through advocacy, CDA aims to influence public policy and resource allocation decisions within political, economic and social systems and institutions that have a direct impact on people’s lives.
Effective advocacy stems from developing long-term relationships within the policy-making community and demonstrating a commitment to priority issues. Advocacy actions must be inclusive and engaging, provide a forum for discussion of issues and propose solutions. Perhaps most importantly, as the national voice of the dental profession, CDA’s advocacy work is conducted in the best interests of Canadian oral health care.
CDA is involved in advocacy at a number of levels. At the local level, CDA helps dentists in their efforts to influence local public policy initiatives by providing resources and assistance. For example, CDA has provided an authoritative voice in the ongoing issue of community water fluoridation.
At the provincial level, CDA provides forums for discussions with the provincial dental associations (PDAs) and facilitates the development of strategies to advocate for issues that are provincially regulated. Two of CDA’s priority projects—access to care for children and seniors and the trust and value project—include representation from the PDAs and aim to develop strategies for implementation provincially. A recent outcome of these efforts is the draft legislation on oral health care standards in long-term care facilities that the working group on access to care has made available for PDAs.
Nationally, CDA’s robust advocacy strategy takes many different approaches, including government relations, media relations and public education. The most visible of these approaches is the annual Days on the Hill event, when CDA delegates meet with members of parliamentary and Senate committees to discuss issues of mutual concern. Other national initiatives currently underway include involvement in a joint working group on non-insured health benefits (NIHB) for First Nations and Inuit and the initial stages of a relationship with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Also, CDA senior staff meets regularly with the Canadian Oral Health Advisor in the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Lastly, at the international level, CDA has had a direct impact on international policy decisions through its advocacy efforts at the FDI World Dental Federation. CDA meets with our counterparts from the American Dental Association on a bilateral basis. We are part of the North American Regional Organisation (NARO) at FDI, and meet annually as part of the Perth Group, an organization that encompasses the national dental associations of Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Japan and Canada.
CDA also participates in a number of coalitions that advocate for general health promotion such as the Canadian Coalition for Action on Tobacco (CCAT), the Canadian Coalition for Public Health in the 21st Century (CCPH21) and the Health Action Lobby (HEAL). Working in coalitions allows CDA to build alliances with other organizations while using the strength of a coalition to advocate for public policy issues.
CDA’s advocacy actions raise awareness among government policy makers and politicians about problems in oral healthcare and their solutions. It’s an essential part of providing leadership in oral health care and strengthens our profession’s position as experts in oral health care delivery.