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|Enhancing oral health in a regional setting: identifying strengths and opportunities.
|Western Alliance 2023 Symposium.
|Background/aim: Oral health is an essential component of the overall health and well-being of individuals. People living in rural areas currently experience disproportionate rates of oral disease and many communities do not have fluoridated water. The aims of this project are to: Work in partnership with a regional community and subject matter experts Understand the factors contributing to local oral health outcomes Identify strengths and assets that can be leveraged to improve outcomes in the region Co-design interventions to enhance oral health and the associated physical, social and economic impacts across the community Population/setting: The regional town of Edenhope in Western Victoria. Methods: A steering community was formed to guide the development of the project. A brief desktop review was performed to assess current oral health outcomes and services available for people living in Edenhope. Two community engagement sessions were held in Edenhope. The first explored local strengths and factors adversely impacting oral health. A second session was held where information about local health data, current oral health services and programs, and case studies were shared. Results/findings: Health outcome data demonstrates that adults living in the West Wimmera region self-report lower rates of good oral health. Children aged 0 to 5 years have higher rates of dental disease or carries and preventable hospitalisations. Regarding service provision, Grampian Health (GH) dental department has opened a second dental school in Horsham, running Monday to Friday. GH dental has started to collate waiting list entries for the eligible adult community and has implemented their established emergency “sit and wait” program in Horsham, which is also accessible for eligible triaged patients from Edenhope. GH dental has offered care to children at: Edenhope’s kindergarten and child care centre, Edenhope College (P-12), St Malachy’s School (P-6), Apsley public school. The engagement and consultation process identified strengths and challenges. The engagement sessions also provided an opportunity to improve oral health knowledge among the participants. A series of potential oral health interventions were then identified, and the steering committee selected three activities as the highest priority: Expand the Smiles for Miles program. Identify and empower community champions to perform screening and enhance health literacy among children. Host a stall at a community festival to strengthen oral health literacy and offer oral health screening. Conclusion: Working in partnership with the Edenhope community and oral health experts has enabled the team to better understand the factors contributing to local oral health outcomes in Edenhope and identify a series of health interventions that will be implemented over the next 12 months. Translational impact/implications for future practice: Oral health literacy has been strengthened, selected interventions will be implementation, ocal public health units have enabled an opportunity to bring together experts and the community to co-design public health initiatives.
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