Government investment in oral health disease vaccine ironically welcome

Thursday, September 26, 2019

‘Today’s announcement by the Australian Government of a $14 million grant for development of a vaccine for gum disease is welcome—but at the same time rather ironic’, says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven.

‘Our nation’s oral health is starting to slip, particularly among young children. We have known this for some years.

‘The government has not responded by lifting investment in proven basic preventive oral health campaigns and strategies, nor by supporting better access to public dental health services for those who cannot afford a dentist.

‘We are not saying the project is unworthy of support—it is very exciting, and the researchers are well-credentialled.

‘But improving oral health needs much more than this. And the answers are already proven and backed by evidence.

‘For example—and this is a big example—nearly 3 million Australians, more than 11% of the Australian population, do not have a fluoridated water supply—a well proven technology that effectively and efficiently prevents oral disease. 

‘Secondly, Australia’s public dental health services have been grossly under-funded for too long.

‘Waiting lists for public dental care are huge, and too many people avoid urgently-needed care, resulting in pain, health and nutrition issues, disfigurement and related social problems.

‘It’s time the Australian Government reversed its cuts to adult public dental services of the past few years and allowed the most vulnerable Australians to get the immediate treatment they need right now.

‘And finally, Australians are among the highest consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages in the world at an alarming 76 litres each per year.

‘This has a massive impact on tooth decay rates, as well as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and stroke.

‘A 20% tax, as supported by the World Health Organization, will reduce all of these health risk factors, deliver considerable health system savings, and generate an estimated $400 million in revenue annually.

‘Investments in oral disease research are most certainly welcome—but let’s deal with some basics too!’ Ms Verhoeven said.

More information on 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, Primary Health Networks, and community and primary healthcare services.

Media enquiries:

Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive, AHHA

0403 282 501