Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act of 2021

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 8, 2021
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 4555) to amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize a public education campaign across all relevant programs of the Health Resources and Services Administration to increase oral health literacy and awareness.

The Clerk read the title of the bill.

The text of the bill is as follows: H.R. 4555

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the ``Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act of 2021''. SEC. 2. ORAL HEALTH LITERACY AND AWARENESS CAMPAIGN.

The Public Health Service Act is amended by inserting after section 340G-1 of such Act (42 U.S.C. 256g-1) the following: ``SEC. 340G-2. ORAL HEALTH LITERACY AND AWARENESS.

``(a) Campaign.--The Secretary, acting through the Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, shall establish a public education campaign (referred to in this subsection as the `campaign') across all relevant programs of the Health Resources and Services Administration (including the health center program, oral health workforce programs, maternal and child health programs, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, and rural health programs) to increase oral health literacy and awareness.

``(b) Strategies.--In carrying out the campaign, the Secretary shall identify oral health literacy and awareness strategies that are evidence-based and focused on oral health care education, including education on prevention of oral disease such as early childhood and other caries, periodontal disease, and oral cancer.

``(c) Focus.--The Secretary shall design the campaign to communicate directly with specific populations, including children, pregnant women, parents, the elderly, individuals with disabilities, and ethnic and racial minority populations, including Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians, in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner.

``(d) Outcomes.--In carrying out the campaign, the Secretary shall include a process for measuring outcomes and effectiveness.

``(e) Report to Congress.--Not later than 3 years after the date of enactment of this section, the Secretary shall submit to the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate a report on the outcomes and effectiveness of the campaign.

``(f) Authorization of Appropriations.--To carry out this section, there is authorized to be appropriated $750,000 for each of fiscal years 2022 through 2026.''.

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Mr. PALLONE. 4555.

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Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, oral health is an important component of general health and well-being, but it is a big problem for many Americans. Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in both children and adults in the United States. More than one in four adults have untreated cavities, and nearly half of American adults show signs of gum disease.

Regular preventative dental care can catch these oral health problems early when they are easiest to treat. Unfortunately, less than half of Americans use the oral healthcare system. One of the best ways to promote oral healthcare is to increase oral health literacy.

H.R. 4555, the Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act, will accomplish this by expanding oral health literacy programs. H.R. 4555 will authorize a public education campaign to increase oral health literacy and awareness across all relevant programs of the Health Resources and Services Administration.

This bill will also help us learn about the effectiveness of targeted oral health literacy campaigns, and it will inform future efforts to improve oral health literacy for all Americans.

I want to thank Representatives Cardenas and Bilirakis, members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, for their bipartisan work on this legislation. I urge my colleagues to support this important bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. Cardenas), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee who is the lead sponsor of the bill.

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Mr. PALLONE. Madam Speaker, I urge bipartisan support for this bill.

As Mr. Cardenas said, there is nothing, really, more important than oral health. We know there are so many times when poor dental care has led to much more severe problems of all sorts, so this is really an important bill.

Madam Speaker, I urge its support, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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