According to a major new study on the absence of political priority for oral health in Ireland, “to avoid repeating historical mistakes, successful reform will require greater political interest than experienced to date, strong political will, and a major focus on implementation, including positive engagement with oral health professionals”.
The study, entitled ‘‘Toothless’ – the absence of political priority for oral health: a case study of Ireland 1994-2021’ was written by Dr Una McAuliffe, Prof. Helen Whelton, Prof. Mairead Harding and Dr Sara Burke, and is based on a PhD dissertation by Dr McAuliffe. The authors state that this lack of political priority is not unique to Ireland, with global oral health suffering from limited political attention. Referencing the national oral health policy, Smile agus Slainte, which was published in 2019, the authors state that a key finding from interviews carried out for their research was a “perceived failure to engage with all relevant stakeholders, particularly representatives of the HSE and private dental practitioners as the policy was being developed”.
The failure to implement a variety of recommendations, guidelines, and the national oral health policy, is also highlighted: “This research finds that insufficient engagement has taken place with all dental professionals during the development of Smile agus Slainte. International evidence highlights that efforts to transform health systems are more successful when healthcare professionals are engaged, leading to improved clinical outcomes, patient safety, care quality and financial performance”. The authors state that the pandemic highlighted the position of oral health within the broader health system: “The emergence of ‘essential oral healthcare’ as a consequence of the pandemic must be defined and further harnessed in supporting future health system reform, particularly in the realm of universal health coverage”.