New oral health policy: IDA raises concerns on funding and schools

The Irish Government’s new oral health policy, ‘Smile agus Sláinte’, has been met with warnings about the lack of funding and the failure to include a key role for schools.

The Irish Dental Association (IDA) Chief Executive, Fintan Hourihan, described the Department of Health’s funding proposal of €80m – based on Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) research – as totally unrealistic.

“We welcomed the publication of the policy and regard it as well intentioned. However, on day one we warned that successful delivery was dependent on sufficient, ring-fenced funding being allocated. The plan envisages a major shift from public to private provision of dental care for children. Now we have had some time to study the costing exercise carried out by the ESRI on behalf of the Department of Health we can see that it bears little relation to what is happening on the ground.”

In addition, the IDA said the policy has failed to include any meaningful role for pre-schools, primary schools or secondary schools in promoting good oral health practices. It pointed out that there has been no unified state policy on oral health promotion in schools up to now, but it had expected to see such programmes play a critical role in the new Smile agus Sláinte policy.

The IDA believes the good habits that pre and primary schools in particular could engender would set children up for life, while saving the state money.

The new President of the IDA, Professor Leo Stassen, said: “The experience of most dentists is that the information given to young people here about oral health is, in most cases, minimal. Indeed, many schools still reward good behaviour with sweet treats, while end of term parties, cake sales and visits to fast food restaurants by teams after matches are unfortunately, regular features of school life.”

The IDA pointed out that Scotland and Wales have pioneered programmes in nurseries and primary schools that have been adopted worldwide. It said straightforward programmes like supervised brushing for pre-schoolers would achieve so much and pay for themselves in the long run.

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Published: 14 May, 2019 at 07:27