Addressing Health Literacy as a Barrier of Access to Healthcare in the Philadelphia-based Hispanic Community at Puentes de SaludĀ 

Dumé, Jennifer, Naameh, Sameer
Advisor/Community Preceptor: Garcia, Lorena
University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, Department of Preventive and Restorative Sciences, Division of Community Oral Health


PDM has instituted a community oral health clinic in association with non-profit organization Puentes de Salud that aims at mitigating health literacy as a barrier of access to health-care in relation to dentistry by providing care specific to addressing these challenges. 

Project Overview

Health literacy refers to the ability of an individual to obtain and understand basic health information and affects the individuals ability to make informed decisions about his or her care. Health literacy is affected by the individual’s social determinants of health, such as socio-economic status, culture, geographic location, and demographic. The Hispanic community in Philadelphia is at a particular disadvantage due to a language barrier, lack of resources, cultural discrepancies, and low socio-economic status. Furthermore, in the United States, Hispanics disproportionately experience preventable oral health conditions due to these challenges. One goal of Penn Dental Medicine at Puentes de Salud is to mitigate health literacy as a barrier of access to health-care in the Philadelphia-based Hispanic community.


Patients at Puentes de Salud enthusiastically utilize the dental clinic’s resources and have shown great investment in their dental care. Patients have responded well to oral health education and understand the need for follow up with their dental care. The “promotoras” or community liaisons at the site have been quintessential in helping to communicate the specific needs of the community. In response, the honors students successfully delivered a tobacco cessation presentation to the “promotoras” who, in turn, have been able to help disseminate the information to the community. Mobile translators have proven to be very effective at helping bridge the language gap between Spanish-speaking patients and English-speaking dental providers. The dental clinic has been able to refer patients back to PDM for further comprehensive care and specialty care such as Endodontics, Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Orthodontics, and Prosthodontics. Spanish-speaking providers were prioritized for these patients help mitigate language barriers. Furthermore, the dental clinic has successfully identified undiagnosed hypertension, diabetes, and mental health issues in the population and made the appropriate referral to the medical team at Puentes de Salud. PDM at Puentes de Salud has become a driving force in increasing dental and medical awareness in the Philadelphia-based Hispanic community.