Researchers awarded millions in state funding to tackle COVID dental and other health challenges

COVID health challenges
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Researchers from The University of Western Australia have been awarded $3.2 million in State Government funding to tackle COVID-19 health challenges, such as creating a system using smartphones to identify children in need of urgent dental care.

Other challenges include investigating how antibodies in breast milk protect babies from the virus and preparing a COVID-19 vaccine rollout for hard-to-reach communities.

UWA was successful in receiving 10 Future Health Research and Innovation (FHRI) Fund Focus Grants, announced by State Health Minister Roger Cook.

The projects relate to infection prevention and control, surveillance, diagnostics and therapeutics as well as the direct or indirect impact of COVID-19 across a range of health conditions. 

Grant recipient Professor Marc Tennant from UWA’s School of Human Sciences was awarded $50,000 to develop a system that allows parents to take photos of their children’s teeth on their smart devices and send them to offsite dental practitioners for evaluation. 

The dental team can access the database from their desktop, assess the dental photos, and determine whether cases need a referral or can be delayed. 

Professor Tennant said the system would ensure access to routine dental care and reduce inappropriate referrals, reducing unnecessary travel and waiting times.

“This approach has the potential to prioritise children based on their dental needs to receive appropriate treatment at the appropriate time,” Professor Tennant said. 

“It will help to provide potentially low-cost and sustainable preventive dental care for children even during the pandemic.”

UWA vice-chancellor Professor Amit Chakma congratulated Professor Tennant and the other recipients and said the funding showcased the breadth of COVID-19 related research and innovation at UWA.

“The university’s ability to translate knowledge into practice means that this research will directly help Western Australians affected by the COVID-19 global pandemic,” Professor Chakma said.

“Through investment in research and innovation, we can prepare to meet the health and wellbeing needs of communities, both local and global, as we respond to COVID challenges.”

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