Gov. Jerry Brown today announced that Jayanth V. Kumar, DDS, MPH, will serve as California’s new state dental director. For years, the California Dental Association has advocated for a state dental director — the establishment of this position is a major achievement for the state’s oral health program and access to care planning goals.
“CDA applauds Gov. Brown’s appointment and is looking forward to collaborating with Dr. Kumar, who will bring together an advisory group of stakeholders to help develop plans for improving oral health in California,” said CDA President Walt Weber, DDS. “Under Dr. Kumar’s leadership, New York’s oral health program experienced significant success and is recognized as one of the finest in the nation. We are excited to have his leadership and experience here in California. His excellent grasp of the serious challenges our state faces in reducing barriers to dental care, and his knowledge of effective disease prevention programs and federal funding opportunities, will be a tremendous asset to California.”
Kumar comes to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) with more than 25 years of experience in the New York State Bureau of Dental Health, where he served as director of oral health surveillance and research and as director of the New York State Dental Public Health Residency. He has held the positions of state dental director and acting director since 2009 and is responsible for developing the first comprehensive state oral health plan for New York.
“CDA made the establishment of a state dental director a top priority of its access to care plan, Phased Strategies for Reducing the Barriers to Dental Care in California,” said Weber. CDA developed the report in 2011 as a comprehensive strategic approach to reducing barriers to oral health care for vulnerable Californians.
According to the CDPH, Kumar will direct and manage the oral health program in the CDPH and, in collaboration with the Department of Health Care Services provide leadership in developing and implementing innovative strategies and policies to reduce oral health disparities in California. In addition to a state oral health plan, Kumar will also be responsible for establishing prevention and oral health education projects and working to secure funding for prevention-focused oral health programs, particularly for children.
Dental disease is the most common chronic childhood disease, more common than both asthma and obesity, affecting nearly two-thirds of California’s children by the time they reach third grade. It is one of the top reasons children are absent from school.
Kumar has experience obtaining competitive grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Resources and Services Administration. He directed oral disease prevention and control activities, including New York’s statewide fluoridation program serving more than 12.9 million residents.