Extra money but no extra teeth for Indigenous Australians

More money, but none of it going to their oral health.
More money, but none of it going to their oral health.

The Australian Government will commit an additional $777 million for the renewed National Partnership Agreement (Agreement) to “Closing the Gap” in Indigenous disadvantage. But none of it will go to addressing oral health issues.

The additional funding by the Australian Government will be for a further three years to 30 June 2016. The Australian Government is asking the States and Territories to continue their investment to renew the Agreement.

President of the ADA, Dr Karin Alexander, said: “The Australian Government’s announcement creates more funding but this funding will be put into Indigenous Australians’ mouths that will continue to have decayed teeth and diseased gums at rates higher than other Australians.

“The additional commitment to Closing the Gap in Indigenous disadvantage is welcome. However, while this Agreement has laudable goals such as closing the life expectancy gap, and halving the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade; it is time that it specifically focuses attention and resources to improving Indigenous Australians’ dental health.

“In particular, the Agreement should require that comprehensive treatment be made available to those Indigenous Australians receiving assistance from Agreement programmes. For example, the Northern Territory Stronger Futures part of the Agreement involves the use of preventive fluoride varnish and fissure sealants. While these preventive measures are a good supplement, they must not be considered a substitute for complete dental care.”

Dr Alexander concluded, “Furthermore, the Agreement must fund fully equipped, skilled, trained and experienced mobile dental teams to ensure access to comprehensive dental treatment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The pilot programmes that are in place under the NPA should be made permanent”.

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  1. The comprehensive dental treatment referred to requires the foundation of effective education. Involvement of communities in production of educational video information is an essential first step. Any “Agreement” to “ensure access to comprehensive dental treatment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities” is ludicrous if one party (the communities) fails to be empowered to allow informed decision-making.

  2. Nice to see that the government now sees the value in preventative measures that are provided by Dental Hygienists. The Australian Dental Assoc has not been historically supportive of this critical area of oral health because of fear of losing control of a lucrative component of good dentistry. The ADA has actually thrown up barriers to accessing the preventive skills of the Dental Hygiene profession. These barriers have been disguised as measures “assuring the health and safety of the patient”. Actually, the Dental Hygiene profession is extremely efficient at setting there own standards of health and safety. As always more funding towards providing good oral health is certainly needed and welcome.


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