Latinos in the USA often suffer poor oral health. Their dental insurance coverage is the lowest of any minority, and their dental culture is often associated with behaviors that merely react to pain and acute conditions. Studies of oral health among Latinos have hitherto been limited to characterization of a few socio- economic and socio-cultural variables at the individual level. In this R21 application we propose a novel, exploratory study of a well-bounded community network of people of Mexican descent. Our short term objective is to explore the utility of applying network science research methods to improve our understanding of oral health behaviors.
Our specific aims are to 1) describe the nature and distribution of social network ties, oral health risk and protective behaviors, and use of dental care within one existing community network of people of Mexican descent in the USA;and 2) examine the extent and nature of social network influence on the oral health risk and protective behavior, and the utilization of dental care of individuals within this community. Such basic structure will allow (in future projects) to contrast and refine the model with data relevant to other regions in the USA or Mexico, other Hispanic groups, other minorities, and/or generate new models. Having clearer knowledge about the factors contributing to better health behaviors will provide a foundation to craft better informed public policy, up-to-date clinical guidelines, culturally sensitive clinical and preventive care, and future research directions. Of particular interest would be to attain a superior understanding of the network structures and ties that may present key entry points to modify the relationships between actors in the community - with emphasis placed among those hubs that would be more influential to effectively disseminate actionable, accurate, and significant health and health care information.
Hispanic dental insurance coverage is the lowest of any minority in the USA, and their dental culture is often associated with behaviors that merely react to pain and acute conditions. There is a need to understand how such behaviors are modulated beyond individual characteristics, by looking into layers of decisions made at the group and community levels. We aim to assemble social networks models to support crafting better informed public policy, up-to-date clinical guidelines, and culturally sensitive clinical and preventive care.