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What to Think About When Planning for Sustainability

Three critical issues are linked to the sustainability of rural oral health programs:

  • Funding and Resources
  • Partnerships
  • Evaluation

Funding and Resources

Ongoing funding and resources, such as staff time, are important to sustaining rural oral health programs. It may take years before the revenue generated from the program offsets the associated costs, so it is critical to identify funding opportunities and resources early. If dental services are provided, it may be possible to bill Medicaid or other insurers for services and/or use a sliding fee scale. Regardless of the financing mechanism, it is critical to monitor trends in Medicaid and insurance payment policy in the event that changes occur.

For information on foundations or other organizations that have provided grants to programs, see Funders of Rural Oral Health Programs.

For information on other funders of rural health programs, see Funders of Rural Programs in the Rural Community Health Toolkit.


Rural oral health programs have collaborated with schools, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), Area Health Education Centers (AHECs), WIC sites, and other state and local agencies to develop partnerships. Some programs have established an oral health consortium or steering committee in the community as a vehicle for sustainability. By developing a consortium or committee, organizations have an opportunity to meet regularly, have open communication, identify resources and capacity, and build sustainable relationships that can improve oral health in the community. These meetings are also an opportunity for the program to acknowledge and thank partners for their continued support. It is important to be aware of any staff changes in partner organizations, as such changes can affect the viability of partnerships in the long term.


Rural oral health programs are using evaluation information to convey the impact of their programs. Evaluation is also a critical tool to demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) of the program. Some rural oral health programs are calculating ROI using RHIhub's Economic Impact Analysis Tool.

Additional information is available in Module 5: Evaluating Rural Oral Health Programs.

Resources to Learn More

Developing a Plan for Financial Sustainability
This online chapter discusses financial sustainability for non-profit organizations.
Author(s): Nagy, J.
Organization(s): Community Tool Box
Date: 2012

Healthy Kentucky Smiles: A Lifetime of Oral Health. Statewide Oral Health Strategic Plan: The Commonwealth of Kentucky—2006
The document outlines the strategic plan for oral health for the state of Kentucky, including sustainability and collaboration activities.
Organization(s): Kentucky Department for Public Health
Date: 5/2006