As the population of older adults in the United States continues to grow with the aging of the Baby Boom generation, the advantages of developing coordinated and cost effective health policies is becoming increasingly salient. This interdisciplinary research focuses on improving the oral health of older adults as a means of enhancing their overall wellbeing and quality of life. Periodontal disease is a risk factor for other chronic illnesses, notably diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Despite this link, medical and dental disorders are rarely screened for and treated as related conditions. Additionally, access to dental care for older adults is oftentimes adversely affected by lack of insurance coverage and complex social, cognitive, and physical factors, which results in missed opportunities for intervention and prevention of more serious conditions.
In order to identify policies that improve oral health for older adults, a dynamic modeling approach that considers community and individual level factors is utilized. A causal map was developed in consultation with dental practitioners who lead the ElderSmile program at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine to establish relationships among the social and environmental factors that influence access to and use of oral health screening and treatment services in northern Manhattan. The relationships between these factors are used to identify the critical feedback mechanisms to be implemented in a hybrid AnyLogic model employing agents, social networks, GIS, and stock-flow structures. Preliminary results from this model will be presented.