A Rural Health Advocate Receives Individual Innovative Oral Health Champion Award

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Rural health advocate receives Individual Innovative Oral Health Champion Award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. Kelly Braun, rural primary care and integration coordinator at the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH), received the 2023 Individual Innovative Oral Health Champion Award from the PA Coalition for Oral Health (PCOH). The award was presented on Nov. 17 in a ceremony held in Harrisburg during the 2023 Pennsylvania Oral Health Summit.

The Individual Innovative Oral Health Champion Award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated outstanding efforts for the advancement of oral health in Pennsylvania and who, through innovative and unique contributions, has improved oral health in Pennsylvania at the local, regional, or state level.

PORH was formed in 1991 as a partnership between the federal government, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Penn State. The office is one of 50 state rural health offices in the country and is trusted as a source of coordination, technical assistance, networking, and partnership development.

In his position at PORH, Braun leads technical assistance activities for Pennsylvania’s Rural Health Clinics (RHC) and rural health care integration, with a special emphasis on oral health. He is a registered dental hygienist and a public health dental hygiene practitioner.

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The nomination, submitted by Dr. Eve Kimball, a pediatrician from Wyomissing who serves as secretary of the PCOH board of directors, praised Braun for exhibiting the qualities inherent in great leaders: integrity, honesty, humility, love, clear focus, and driving excellence. Since joining PORH in 2016, Braun has focused his passions for oral and rural care on improving health conditions in rural Pennsylvania, other states, and across the country, Kimball said.

Braun’s significant contributions to rural health services include launching a primary care/oral health integration model that is now the “Gold Standard” for other states implementing similar programs. Braun provided extensive input into the development of the Pennsylvania Oral Health Plan and the 2024–2028 Pennsylvania Rural Health Plan. He provides input on state oral health legislation and leads a research project comparing the oral health status of low-income rural and urban children in Pennsylvania. Technical assistance on oral health issues provided to the National Rural Health Association has resulted in a strong national policy brief on the implications of oral health for health conditions.

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Braun expands his knowledge of oral health through continuing education programs for health care providers, including community health workers and statewide clinics; promotes oral health screening in K–12 settings with school nurses; and serves as a mentor to other states seeking to integrate oral health and primary care. She uses her clinical skills as a public health dental hygienist by volunteering at oral health “pop-up clinics” across the state.

Finally, Braun built significant credibility for PORH as a trusted source of technical assistance and oral health information and facilitated expanded partnerships with PCOH and the broader oral health community in the state and nationally. .

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In accepting the award and recognition, Braun said, “This work would not be possible without the support of incredible partners from across the state of Pennsylvania and beyond. Collaboration is truly the key to success.”

The PA Coalition for Oral Health is a diverse group of leaders from across the state, including schools of public health, philanthropic organizations, businesses, dental organizations, health insurance firms, advocacy organizations, state agencies, and other champions. More information is available at paoralhealth.org.

PORH provides expertise in the areas of rural health, population health, quality improvement, oral health, and agricultural health and safety. PORH is administratively housed in the Department of Health Policy and Administration in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State University Park. Visit porh.psu.edu to learn more.