The Center for Native Oral Health Research (CNOHR) conducts research aimed at developing culturally acceptable and effective strategies to prevent infectious oral diseases in American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations. Although both caries (cavities) and periodontal (gum) disease are entirely preventable, disparities in oral health for American Indians and Alaska Natives are among the highest reported. Our research is directly informed by the needs of the tribes with which we work, and Native consultants and colleagues are at the center of program development and delivery. We emphasize behavioral and community-based strategies, since the prevention of chronic and infectious processes will always be dependent on individual factors involved in accessing and using health knowledge and clinical intervention. In other words, we believe in prevention through empowerment. Consistent with the complexity of this approach, our faculty investigators represent more than a dozen academic and professional disciplines and also include individuals of Native background.
CNOHR was established in 2008, with funding from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, a division of National Institutes of Health (NIDCR U54 DE019275). It is one of five centers nationally that are focused on oral health disparities, and one of three Collaborating Centers for Early Childhood Caries – along with Centers at the University of California at San Francisco and Boston University. CNOHR is the only one of these oral health disparities centers that addresses the specific needs of the AI/AN population. At the University of Colorado, CNOHR is one of several Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health within the Department of Community and Behavioral Health of the Colorado School of Public Health. We collaborate closely in our work with the School of Dental Medicine.
As CNOHR continues to develop capacity, increasing emphasis will be placed on supporting developmental work that shows promise for demonstrating the effectiveness of emerging prevention and treatment strategies. Our program of Developmental Research will provide funding and opportunities for such efforts. Meanwhile, CNOHR approaches can be best understood through descriptions of the two major projects that began data collection in 2011.