Dental Tribune International

Partnership seeks to improve Indigenous representation in dental workforce

By Brendan Day, Dental Tribune International
July 23, 2021

SYDNEY, Australia: Though an estimated 3.3% of the Australian population identifies as Indigenous, statistics collated by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare have shown that this figures falls to 0.4% in the context of the country’s dental workforce. To help remedy this, the Indigenous Dentists’ Association of Australia (IDAA) has struck up a partnership with the New South Wales branch of the Australian Dental Association (ADA NSW) with the ultimate aim of reducing the oral health inequalities that exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.

Indigenous Australians, particularly those in remote communities, are much more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to have multiple carious lesions and untreated dental disease owing to factors such as poor access to dental clinics, cost and lack of awareness. More than 60% of Indigenous dental patients between 35 and 54 years of age have signs of periodontal disease, which has been linked to myriad health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and higher rates of COVID-19 complications.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the IDAA and ADA NSW will see the two organisations collaborate on professional development courses, explore opportunities for joint membership initiatives and develop a reconciliation action plan.

Indigenous Dentists’ Association of Australia President Dr Gari Watson. (Image: IDAA)

“We can only close the gap in health inequalities by improving Indigenous representation in the workforce and ensuring the next generation of Indigenous health professionals is coming through,” IDAA President Dr Gari Watson said in a press release.

He added: “We hope this MOU will help strengthen links between existing Indigenous dental practitioners, provide more information on potential careers in dentistry and also further highlight oral heath’s link to overall well-being.”

“We believe this partnership with ADA NSW is, given our shared values and purpose, another important step towards improving overall health and well-being outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Watson concluded.

“There’s a huge link between oral health and general well-being,” noted Dr Kathleen Matthews, ADA NSW president.

“All Australians deserve access to affordable dental care when they need it, but the current data shows we must take action to improve oral health outcomes for Indigenous patients. This partnership will highlight not only the IDAA’s terrific work representing Indigenous dental professionals, but also the importance of oral health, particularly among the Indigenous community, drive improved health outcomes and explore how to attract more Indigenous students and workers to the dental profession,” Matthews concluded.

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