Lack of funding for dental health research despite growing impact on Australians

funding for dental health research
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An examination of Australian research funding of oral health sciences compared to other major diseases has found investment in the area is underfunded, and not keeping up with the burden of disease in the country.

The study led by researchers from the University of Sydney, University of Melbourne, University of Queensland, and University of Adelaide, investigated major government funding schemes, which included the Australian Research Council (ARC), the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), and Medical Research Future Funds (MRFF) grants.

The analysis—published in the Australian Dental Journal—found oral health sciences to have the lowest and most inequitable level of support, when compared with other research fields on burden of disease.

Burden of disease is the impact of living with illness and injury and dying prematurely, and also measures the years of healthy life lost.

Dental health issues are already on the rise in Australia, with approximately 70,000 preventable hospitalisations due to dental health issues each year, with 25 per cent being preventable.

Socially disadvantaged groups are most affected by poor oral health. Researchers say it is vital there is more investment into prevention-focused public oral health programs or health inequalities will only worsen.

In the USA, the National Institute of Health provided $485 million to fund oral health research, representing 1.1 per cent of total research funding. In comparison, in Australia, total NHMRC funding for dental disorders between 2017 to 2021 was $15 million, which is 0.23 per cent of total NHMRC funding for the top 75 diseases with the highest burden of disease.

Immunological diseases and environmental and occupational health are not on the Australian burden of disease list. However, compared to oral health research, the NHMRC funded $381.6 million and $87.7 million respectively for research in those areas between 2017 – 2021.

A lack of funding allocated to oral health science was also reflected in allocations from the ARC and MRFF with only $3.43 million and $1.88 million respectively

“What we’re highlighting is that being proactive is key for all diseases, but what we’ve found is that dental health is being neglected when it comes to funding,” senior author Professor Heiko Spallek, head of school and dean of the University of Sydney School of dentistry, said.

“Ignoring oral health will only increase the disease burden of Australians, and potentially lead to future disabilities, hospitalisation and great distress.”

This article was sourced from News on the University of Sydney website.

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