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Health board plans for oral-health funding

1 September 2006

Health board plans for share of oral-health funding

Bay of Plenty's community dental service is set to improve with a cash injection from the Ministry of Health. As announced in the April 2006 budget, $100 million has been allocated for distribution between the country's 21 district health boards over a five-year period.

Bay of Plenty District Health Board staff are working hard on making a business case to access this new funding, held by the Ministry of Health for health boards to access through business cases that outline their service plan, service coverage and needs for additional funding.

So, what improvements does the health board have planned for the Bay of Plenty's oral health services?

Community Dental Services Manager Sharon McKoy-Thomas says that last year Bay of Plenty District Health Board undertook significant service planning for children and adolescents to inform the School Dental Service Review of 2005, and the new funding will enable some of these plans to be implemented.

"The service plan envisages a number of fixed dental clinics operating from school premises in urban areas together with rural oral health services provided from mobile dental services. The Community Dental Service is working on assessing its current configuration and is making plans to cope with the future changes anticipated in population levels and community demographics. These plans will review staffing, design features required of a 21st century clinic, opening hours, where 'hub' sites should be located and how mobile units will integrate with the hub sites."

"The Te Puke community is already reaping the benefits of this 'hub' system, with a fixed dental clinic 'hub' operating at Te Puke Intermediate, and a mobile clinic servicing the outlying areas. If children need access to the dental service in between mobile clinic visits they are able to attend the main clinic at Te Puke Intermediate."

Emulating the service model working for the Te Puke community, the health board plans to reduce the current 33 fixed dental clinics to a possible 12 as part of service development. However, further work is still required to develop and cost the retention, redesign and refit of these new school dental clinics, which will act as centres for the delivery of oral health care, so closure of the existing school clinics will not take place until any new project plans are approved to support current services.

Business case development will also focus on the design, fit out and staffing of a number of mobile dental units and equipment replacement. Integration of a proposed community dentist service and the Kaupapa service as well as the requirement for regional cooperation will be factored into service planning.

Ever vigilant about the oral health of the community, Sharon doesn't miss the chance to promote individual dental hygiene as one of the biggest contributing factors to the overall oral health of Bay of Plenty communities.

"As individuals we must also remember that the dental health of our population is not only the responsibility of the Ministry of Health and district health boards. By restricting sugary diets and educating parents and children in good oral health habits we can prevent disease and minimise the need for clinical intervention. The statistics show that in the Eastern Bay of Plenty 30% of children already have caries (decay) when they first register as pre-schoolers with the school dental service. The figures for the Western Bay also raise concern with 23% of children presenting with decay."

ENDS

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