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CCOH dental unit

GreenShield grant helps increase dental access for at-risk populations

May 7, 2024 — 

In 1957, when a mother entered GreenShield founder William Wilkinson’s Windsor, Ontario pharmacy with two prescriptions – one for herself and one for her sick daughter – she could only afford one and sacrificed her own health to care for her daughter. Wilkinson knew there was a better way forward.  

The desire to provide affordable access to pharmaceuticals led Wilkinson to establish GreenShield as North America’s first prepaid drug plan. To extend GreenShield’s positive impact beyond its direct customer base, he founded the company as a non-profit from the onset, with earnings reinvested to provide increased access to health care services for local communities and underserved populations.  

Driven by its enduring non-profit social mission of Better Health for All, in 2023, GreenShield funded a grant to support the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Community Oral Health (CCOH), which provides dental service to uninsured, underinsured, and at-risk priority populations, including people from low-income households, residents of long-term care facilities, Indigenous Peoples, and newcomers and refugees to Canada. 

“GreenShield is committed to driving health equity on a national scale through focused initiatives across mental health, essential medicines, chronic disease, and oral health. GreenShield Cares – our non-profit division – partners with frontline communities and academic clinics to help underserved Canadians access quality dental care,” says Mandy Mail, Executive Vice President, Marketing, Communications and GreenShield Cares. “Through our over $200,000 commitment to the University of Manitoba’s dental program, we’re empowering clinics across Winnipeg, ensuring equitable care for communities like First Nations and recent newcomers. From downtown clinics to mobile units reaching personal care homes, we’re fostering healthier smiles and brighter futures.”

Prior to COVID-19, CCOH’s Access Downtown Dental Clinic operated over 250 clinic days per year and provided care for up to 3,500 patients a year. Through the pandemic, clinic days and patient numbers predictably dropped due to intermittent public health restrictions and people’s hesitancy and fear of contracting the coronavirus. 

Coming out of the pandemic, CCOH’s goal was to re-engage patients and promote oral health in the community, make site and equipment upgrades at Access Downtown and Deer Lodge Centre dental clinics, offer free examinations for those in long-term care through the Home Dental Care Program, and support needed community-based research.  

“Dental care is out of reach for many underserved and equity-seeking populations, and UM’s dental clinics across Winnipeg will increase access for these populations,” says Mail. “We know we can be a stronger force for good when we partner with like-minded organizations like UM who understand the nuances and unique needs of their community. Our collaboration helps us pursue our mission of Better Health for All.” 

The GreenShield grant not only allowed CCOH to address barriers many populations face when seeking dental care, but also to purchase new equipment such as a dental chair, a hand-held x-ray unit, and surgical handpieces for clinics, all of which has had a profoundly positive impact the lives of over 3,500 people, ranging from children to adults.

“We all know that access to care challenges continue to exist for many underserved populations in this province, but investments like this are certain to help in making care more accessible and affordable to those in need,” says Dr. Anastasia Kelekis-Cholakis, Dean of UM’s Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry. “This grant has played a pivotal role in overcoming these obstacles, allowing us to navigate through these uncertain times and emerge stronger than ever. We are so thankful for GreenShield’s generosity, which has enabled us to innovate, adapt, and optimize our operations to better meet the evolving needs of our community.” 

Being founded as a non-profit from the onset, social impact is a part of GreenShield’s DNA. GreenShield measures success against its ambitious goal to reinvest $75 million of social impact investments to improve the lives of at least 1 million Canadians by 2025. GreenShield is committed to collaborating with community partners like UM’s Centre for Community Oral Health to identify solutions to fill the gaps in oral health across Canada. This contributes to their ongoing effort to improve health outcomes, drive systemic change, and foster a healthier, more equitable society. 

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