Better public dental health services, fluoridation and a sugary drinks tax sorely needed

Thursday, March 14, 2019

‘It is high time that we as a nation got serious about improving our oral health’, says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) Acting Chief Executive Dr Linc Thurecht.

‘And to that end we applaud the Australian Greens for today drawing attention to a very concerning national health issue by announcing their dental policy for the next election.

‘With over 30% of Australian adults having untreated tooth decay, and out-of-pocket costs for dental care being higher than for any other category of health spending, clearly things need to change.

‘The fact that oral conditions are the third-highest reason for preventable hospital admissions is also a major concern.

‘If we keep things going just as they are in dental health, the situation will only worsen’, Dr Thurecht said.

‘Universal dental health coverage is the ideal—that is, everyone receiving adequate and affordable dental treatment when they need it regardless of income. But wise money must also be directed to preventing decay and other oral health conditions happening in the first place.

‘There are three pressing immediate needs, and we think that these should be prioritised by whichever party gains government at the next federal election.

‘Firstly, fund adult public dental services well to ensure that the most vulnerable get the immediate treatment they need right now.

‘We think a $500 million per year boost from the Australian government is needed, and this should be contingent on the states making sure that every locality’s water supply is fluoridated.

‘The benefits of fluoridation for oral health are beyond question, and have been for over 50 years—yet over 3 million Australians do not have access to fluoridated water.

‘The third priority is to introduce a tax on sugar sweetened beverages. A 20% tax, as supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) will reduce rates of tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. An estimated extra 1,600 people will be alive after 25 years as a result. This will deliver considerable health system savings and generate an estimated $400 million in revenue annually that should be transparently re-invested into our public healthcare system, including preventive health measures’, Dr Thurecht said.

More information about the AHHA is available at ahha.asn.au

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, and community and primary healthcare services.

Media enquiries:  Dr Linc Thurecht

A/Chief Executive, AHHA

0401 383 729