Mas'ood Cajee, DDS, MPH


California Endowment Scholar in Health Policy

Owner and Dentist, Mas'ood Cajee, DDS, MPH, Manteca, CA

An advocate for social justice and equity, Dr. Cajee’s goal in public policy has been to deepen the links between health and human rights. Residing in California’s Central Valley, Dr. Cajee’s current areas of interest and advocacy include the relationship of development and community health status as well as addressing health and education disparities at the local level. During his fellowship year, Dr. Cajee’s principal interest centered on school readiness and oral health in California, examining how dental disease, low educational achievement, and other systemic issues can intersect to diminish opportunity and equity for children. Dr. Cajee’s commitment to addressing issues of racial and ethnic health disparities can best be exhibited by his active involvement in many community and international health projects in California, Oklahoma, and South Africa. He is also involved in increasing the participation of California’s Muslim communities — primarily African-American and immigrant — in indigenous and mainstream philanthropy. Additionally, he has consulted with Physicians for Human Rights on juvenile asylum-seekers. He has published articles on issues related to dentistry, public health, human rights, peace and justice, and cultural competence.

Born and raised in South Africa, Dr. Cajee received his dental degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry in 2000. He received a Master’s in Public Health from the Harvard School Public Health in 2003 as a California Endowment Scholar.

Learn more about the California Endowment Scholars in Health Policy at Harvard University


School Dental Readiness in California: Implications of a Mandatory School-entry Dental Exam


This study explores the impact and implications of a mandatory school-entry dental exam on stakeholders in California, examines initiatives in other states and promising practices in California and elsewhere.


Nationally, an estimated 51 million school hours per year are lost because of dental-related illness. Students of age 5 to 17 years missed 1,611,000 school days in 1996 due to acute dental average of 3.1 days per 100 students. Children from families with low incomes had nearly 12 times as many days of missed school because of dental problems as did children from families with higher incomes. California children in large and growing numbers suffer from the challenges of dental disease and attending pain, disability, and disfigurement. While children starting school in California are more culturally diverse than ever, many are not healthy and therefore not ready to learn. Children whose dental needs are not met experience pain that often keeps them out of school. Growing evidence from school health research connects well-being in their early childhood years with later K-12 success. Studies connect poor oral health in children to decreased school performance, poor social relationships, and less success in later life.


Telephone interviews with key informants
Review of internal memoranda, policy briefs, reports, and literature
Health, education, and legislation database searches
Key Findings:

Lack of insurance, parental attitude, immigration status , and a shortage of dentists (willing to accept public insurance and skilled enough to treat young children) are major access barriers to care for California children.
School readiness and health is on the health and education policy agenda, although the current budget climate precludes major new initiatives.
A lack of data and evaluation hinders efforts to improve school dental readiness.
Current efforts focus on developing local needs assessments, pilot projects, and provider capacity.
Key Recommendations:

Fluoridation efforts should focus on high priority counties and child populations.
Pilot school dental readiness programs with appropriate design and evaluation at the county or school district should be supported or funded with public or private foundation funds.
A California School Dental Readiness Task Force ought to be formed, with input from a range of groups and with the charge of developing recommendations for the Legislature.
A Public Reporting measure should be developed to rank school districts or counties on their school dental readiness to complement and reinforce current needs assessment efforts.
The impact of immigration status, as well as cultural and linguistic competence, needs to be factored into school dental readiness efforts.
More efforts at building provider capacity need to be developed and evaluated.
Expected Outcome:

White Paper/Policy Brief on School Dental Readiness Exams for California Legislators, Policymakers, and Advocates.

Preceptor and Sponsoring Agency:

Jared Fine, DDS, MPH, Dental Health Foundation, Oakland, CA