Raising the status of oral health
Dr Mairead Harding looks back at the recent Oral Health Promotion Research Group – Ireland’s Annual Conference
A very successful annual conference of the Oral Health Promotion Research Group (OHPRG) – Ireland was held on 14 September in the Ashling Hotel, Dublin.
In opening the conference, Chief Dental Officer Professor Dympna Kavanagh reflected on the Government-led Healthy Ireland initiative which aims to create an Irish society where everyone can enjoy physical and mental health, and where wellbeing is valued and supported at every level of society along with articulating the interconnectedness of oral health and general health.
Professor Kavanagh indicated that the next wave of the Healthy Ireland Survey will include a question on oral health related quality of life (OHRQoL), an important step in raising the profile of OHRQoL not only among the public but our fellow health professionals. Professor Kavanagh identified that action across the life course is required in the promotion of oral health. This linked nicely with the conference theme ‘Who is at risk?’
Guest speaker Professor Richard Watt, from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health University College London, eloquently and passionately spoke of the common risk factor approach, which addresses risk factors common to many chronic conditions within the context of the wider socio-environmental milieu.
Professor Watt focused on the social determinants of oral health such as the access to healthy food, safe housing and quality education; the causes of the causes. Such determinants resonated with the audience and the challenges of addressing them and enhancing oral health. The existence of inequalities in oral health across the social gradient and their impact over the life course was emphasised. The importance of health equity and fair shares not equal shares provided the opportunity for lively discussion.
Dr Kirstin Fitzgerald, consultant paediatric dentist and Dr Brett Duane, associate professor in dental public health, presented a lively and engaging session on the challenges of managing dental caries in the pre-school child. Kirstin and Brett put forward recommendations for early preventive interventions and engaged with the dental public health narrative of upstream and downstream activities, prevention and treatment services.
The afternoon session provided an opportunity for the HSE dental services to showcase research in primary care conducted by Dr Aisling McDonald, while Dr Caroline Marron, Dr Brigid Harney and Dr Collette Kelly received the Dental Health Foundation/OHPRG – Ireland bursary for their proposed research ‘Oral Health Education for New Parents’. In his presentation, Dr Philip Crowley, national director in the Quality Improvement Division of the Health Service Executive (HSE), stressed the significance of a patient-centred approach to care, showcasing initiatives being delivered across the country to build capacity for quality improvement.
Marion Milligan, chair of the Northern Ireland Oral Health Development Group described the introduction of the evidence-based Happy Smiles programme and its aim to improve the oral health of children in nursery education. Cathy Griffin then introduced the oral health component of the Healthy Ireland Smart Start programme, developed through the HSE Health Promotion Department and the National Childhood Network.
The OHPRG – Ireland conference was a day for all members of the dental team. Attendees had opportunities to hear world-renowned speakers and witness work being carried out in Ireland. The committee would like to acknowledge the generous support and assistance from all of their sponsors, Curaprox, DeCare Dental, DHF, Johnson and Johnson, Pamex and Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme. The committee is already working on the programme for next year’s conference –the theme of which will be ‘Smile every step of the way’. The Ashling Hotel, Dublin will again be the venue on Thursday 13 September, 2018.
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About the author
Dr Mairead Harding, BDS, MFGDP (UK), MDPH, PhD, PGDipTLHE, is a senior lecturer in dental public health and deputy director of the Oral Health Services Research Centre at Cork University Dental School and Hospital. She is also senior dental surgeon within the HSE in the Cork Kerry Community Healthcare Area.
Department of Health (2013). Healthy Ireland – A framework for health and well-being 2013-2015. Available at http://health.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/HealthyIrelandBrochureWA2.pdf Accessed 16 October 2017
Sheiham A and Watt R (2000) Community Dent Oral Epidemiol. Dec;28(6):399-406.