The contemporary world has witnessed a rise in dental problems, which affect people from all demographics in society. Initially, dental problems only affected the elderly in society, but the contemporary world has experienced rising cases of dental and tooth problems among young people (Blas & Kurup 2010). Hence, the prevalence of dental problems is high among adults and youth.
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Epidemiological studies indicate that dental problems disproportionately affect the marginalized and the underprivileged community ties because financial constraint s and insufficient information about health care hamper them from accessing quality healthcare services. To address the dental problem, the health care system need to devise strategies that target both vulnerable adults and children.
Therefore, the essay recommends that the appropriate model for funding dental health program in Australia to enhance equitable access should target vulnerable groups such as adults and children.
Method of Collecting Information and Literature Review
In assessing the extent of dental problems in Australia, the essay collects information from secondary sources such as government publications, journals, and books. Over the recent past, Australia has witnessed a rise in dental problems and tooth decay, especially among adults and children. According to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2013), about 61% of children under nine years have experienced tooth decay, while approximately 21% of adults above 65 years have faced tooth decay and have no natural teeth.
These statistics indicate that dental problems are common among children and adults in Australia. Epidemiology shows that a significant number of people from marginalized regions comprise the largest proportion of patients with dental problems. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2013) indicates that children and adults in remote areas of Australia have higher incidences of dental problems than those in cities because of the inaccessibility of healthcare services.
The Department of Health notes that 61% of adults are not able to utilize dental services because of their socioeconomic conditions, which prevent them from accessing and affording healthcare services (Spencer & Harford 2008). In this view, accessibility and affordability are two factors that contribute to the high incidences of dental health among Australians.
Since dental problems are common among disadvantaged children and adults in Australia, there is a need to develop effective programs to address them. National Advisory Council on Dental Health (2012) proposes the provision of all-inclusive medical care to the disadvantaged adults and the introduction of a scheme that targets children as a way of promoting the affordability of healthcare services.
To enhance the accessibility of healthcare services, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2013) recommends construction healthcare centers in remote areas. Parker and Jameison (2010) advocate for the promotion of healthy lifestyles among the indigenous people because health illiteracy contributes to the occurrence of dental problems. In this view, it is evident that these approaches are central in reversing the trends of dental problems among Australians.
Target Scheme for the Disadvantaged Adults on Public Waiting List
Provision of comprehensive care to people from the disadvantaged regions in Australia improves equality of healthcare and reduces dental problems in the country. Moreover, the initiative of comprehensive healthcare facilitates the achievement of equity, especially on issues associated with dental problems and general healthcare (Ha & Amarasena 2012).
Evidently, equity in the provision of healthcare services to the disadvantaged in the society is achievable since the imbalance that exists in the state is the discrepancy between the privileged and the disadvantaged people (Sturmberg 2007). Hence, when the government introduces comprehensive care to the disadvantaged adults, the imbalance between the underprivileged and the privileged in the society reduces, and thus, a state of equity becomes attainable and makes accessibility of healthcare services equal.
Parker and Jameison (2010) note that inequality in dental care emanates from issues like income level, the amount of information on health care, and the place of residence in relation to the availability of medical resources. Therefore, a solution to the dental problem should focus on improving the accessibility of dental care to disadvantaged adults.
Since the majority of the people who live in rural areas and slums, cannot access healthcare services, the introduction of comprehensive schemes for adults in these regions is very fundamental. Marginalized areas that comprise slums and rural regions do not have the required health care services and most of them receive medical services from unequipped dispensaries (Ajeeli & Al-Bastaki 2010; Ha & Amarasena 2012).
As a result, they do not get adequate education on dental issues and care, a factor that worsens the dental problem in the region. The high cost of living in the underprivileged implies that they cannot afford basic requirements that are useful in promoting healthy lifestyles, and therefore, their vulnerability to health problems such as tooth decay increases.
In the assertion of Spencer and Harford (2008), the rate of health problems among the disadvantaged communities living in Australia is higher than among the privileged individuals. The disproportionate occurrence of health problems among the disadvantaged communities and the privileged individuals in Australia implies that there is a need for urgent programs that incorporates comprehensive schemes to address the accessibility of dental care.
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Universal Scheme for Children
Children are among the majority of individuals, who suffer from dental problems and other healthcare challenges in Australia. The major causes of health problems such as tooth decay include poor eating habits and the absence of regular check-ups in medical centers. National Advisory Council on Dental Health (2012) states that to tackle dental challenges in Australia and ensure equity in dental care, the state needs to address the imbalance that is present among the children, the disadvantaged and the privileged in the society.
As a result, the government requires policies that not only minimize the problem of tooth decay and dental challenge but also prevents the future occurrence of the same. Iritani (2010) recommends that the Australian government should increase the number of dental therapists that offer dental services in schools around the country.
In addition, the therapists should conduct comprehensive education among students and share insights about teeth maintenance and the effects of unhealthy lifestyles (Willis, Reynolds & Helen 2009). Through the introduction of these services that incorporate training about healthy living and dental therapy together with the introduction of universal schemes, the objective of equity, as well as accessibility of dental and health care becomes practical.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Literature review and discussion show that dental problems in Australia are common among adults and children, who are marginalized and underprivileged.
In this view, to address the issue of dental problems, the health care system of Australia should adopt the option of target schemes, which provide comprehensive healthcare for the adults already on the waiting list and offer a universal scheme for children as an appropriate and effective funding model. Therefore, in the application of the targeted schemes, the following recommendations are appropriate:
- The building of healthcare centers in remote areas so that marginalized adults and children can easily access quality healthcare services.
- Conducting health promotion among children and adults in the marginalized areas so that they can undertake preventive measures such as eating healthy food, cleaning of teeth, and going for check-ups often.
- Launching a targeted scheme for adults on a waiting list and offering a universal scheme for all vulnerable children to enhance accessibility and affordability of healthcare services.
Ajeeli, A, & Al-Bastaki, Y 2010, Handbook of Research on E-services in the Public Sector, Idea Group Inc (IGI), Pennsylvania.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2013, Oral health and dental care in Australia: Key facts and figures 2012, viewed 5 September 2014, http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=60129543387
Blas, E., & Kurup, A 2010, Equity, Social Determinants and Public Health Programmes, World Health Organization, Geneva.
Ha, A, & Amarasena, H 2012, Fissure Sealant Use among Children Attending School Dental Services: The Child Dental Health Survey, Australia 2002, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Sydney.
Iritani, K 2010, Oral Health: Efforts under Way to Improve Children’s Access to Dental Services, but Sustained Attention Needed to Address Ongoing Concerns, DIANE Publishing, New York.
National Advisory Council on Dental Health 2012, Report of the National Advisory Council on Dental Health, viewed 19 September 2014, http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/final-report-of-national-advisory-council-on-dental-health.htm
Parker, E & Jameison, L 2010, ‘Associations between indigenous Australian oral health literacy and self-reported oral health outcomes’, BMC Oral Health, vol. 10, no. 3, pp.1-8.
Spencer, J & Harford, J 2008, Improving oral health and dental care for Australians, viewed 5 September 2014, http://www.health.gov.au/internet/nhhrc/publishing.nsf/Content/16F7A93D8F578DB4CA2574D7001830E9/$File/Improving%20oral%20health%20&%20dental%20care%20for%20Aust.pdf
Sturmberg, J 2007, The Foundations of Primary Care: Daring to be Different, Radcliffe Publishing, London.
Willis, E, Reynolds, L, & Helen, K 2009, Understanding the Australian Health Care System, Elsevier Health Sciences, Sydney.