National Academy of Medicine

Health Literacy in Dentistry and Navajo Nation Community Health Representatives

By Steven P. Geiermann, Mae-Gilene Begay, Lindsey Robinson, and Sharon Clough
June 23, 2016 | Commentary

In this paper we discuss the importance of the efforts of community health representatives to improve general health on the Navajo reservation and describe the need for new efforts focused on preparing CHRs to act as catalysts for helping improve the oral health in their communities.

Community health representatives extend health care beyond traditional clinic walls. They represent the “eyes, ears, hands, and feet” of the health care delivery system providing continuity of care to many individuals because health care practitioners are often limited, we believe, by their inability to assess and address the needs of their patients outside of the traditional clinic or hospital setting. Community health representatives offer health promotion and disease prevention information and services to many who may be challenged by poverty, transportation, compromising chronic diseases, or an inability to fully comprehend what actions their health care providers are recommending for them.

In our opinion, this multifactorial approach of educating community health representatives about oral health and improving the oral health literacy of those who would be interacting with and within the community is still a work in progress.




Suggested Citation

Geiermann, S. P., M. Begay, L. Robinson, and S. Clough. 2016. Health Literacy in Dentistry and Navajo Nation Community Health Representatives. NAM Perspectives. Commentary, National Academy of Medicine, Washington, DC. doi: 10.31478/201606e


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). The paper is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It is not a report of the NAM or the National Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.