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Alumni Excellence Awards: Legacy Award Winner Alice Horowitz

Alumni Excellence Awards: Legacy Award Winner Alice Horowitz

Photo of Legacy Award Nominee Alice Horowitz

By Andrew Faught

The numbers tell the story: 15 percent of children aged 5 to 19, many of them poor, have untreated cavities, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

While dentists have known for decades the ways in which oral health can prevent tooth decay, or caries, Alice Horowitz has spent most of her professional life making sure that the word gets out.

Specifically, she’s pushing for what’s called health literacy – defined as a person’s ability to find, understand and use information and services to make health-related decisions, in plain language – for themselves and others. For poor and marginalized populations, health literacy is often the key to accessing care.

“We’ve known how to prevent most oral diseases, including periodontal or gum disease, but we haven’t shared that information with all groups,” Horowitz says. “A lot of people think dental care is irrelevant, that it’s not connected to the body. A large part of increasing health literacy, to me, is to reconnect the head to the body.”

Horowitz has been instrumental in initiating the need to address health literacy in dentistry.

She was a senior scientist at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Health of the National Institutes of Health, and she served on the first U.S. Department of Health and Human Services committee on health literacy in the mid-1990s. Horowitz was a lead author of the oral health portion of “Healthy People 2010,” a national health initiative conducted every 10 years to promote health and disease prevention. It was the first time, thanks to Horowitz, that oral health literacy was defined in a national document.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” she says. “Health literacy is relatively new, and it’s an area that’s really growing,”

Horowitz joined UMD in 2007 as an associate research professor of the Department of Behavioral and Community Health, School of Public Health. She retired from the university this year at 89. Horowitz was instrumental in establishing the UMD Herschel S. Horowitz Center for Health Literacy, named after her late husband, an internationally renowned dental epidemiologist, educator and public health advocate.

The Center provides research, education, and service to improve health literacy at the individual, family, community, organization, and society levels.

In recognition of Horowitz’s efforts, the UMD Alumni Association recently named her a recipient of the Legacy Award.

“I believe in what I’m doing, and I think the center is doing an excellent job on all fronts,” she says. “It helps people, and I don’t know what else I could ask for.”


Publication of this article does not imply an endorsement by the Alumni Association. The Alumni Blog connects you with the latest at UMD. Check out articles on advancing your personal and professional goals, elevating your UMD pride, and celebrating Terp traditions, legacies and accomplishments. For even more content, follow the Alumni Association on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.

Colleges & Schools:

School of Public Health