CSU plans major increase in rural dental and oral health workforce

1 JANUARY 2003

Charles Sturt University will introduce its oral health therapy course, and expand enrolments into its rurally-based dental program in Orange, as part of its $63.6 million proposal to the federal government’s Education Investment Fund.

Charles Sturt University (CSU) will introduce its oral health therapy course, and expand enrolments into its rurally-based dental program in Orange, as part of its $63.6 million proposal to the federal government’s Education Investment Fund.  If the funding application is successful, it will allow the University to deliver 17 new courses in Bathurst and Orange, and expand enrolments into a further four programs, in areas of regional health workforce shortage.
 
“Public access to dental services in rural and regional communities continues to lag major cities,” said Professor David Wilson, Head of CSU’s School of Dentistry and Health Sciences.
 
“We continue to see significant waiting times for access to public dental services in Australia.
 
“The latest national survey of dental patients by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found that 25 per cent of Australian concession cardholders waited between one and two years for a dental appointment and 32 per cent waited two or more years.
 
The AIHW report concluded that:
‘… individuals who live in Major cities, or reside in households with higher incomes (including non-cardholders), make a dental visit more frequently and are more likely to visit for a check-up than a problem. They also reported fewer financial barriers to using dental care than people who live outside of Major cities or live in lower income households. Residents of Major cities or higher income households are also more likely to receive preventive services and less likely to have an extraction, regardless of their reason for visit. Visiting and treatment patterns potentially have long-term effects on oral health; individuals who live outside of Major cities and in lower income households (including Cardholders) reported variously more missing teeth and higher prevalence of negative impacts of oral health problems. Overall, these differences between population groups are longstanding and persistent.’
 
“What the research shows is that major cities continue to have more dentists per capita than rural and regional areas,” Professor Wilson said.
“The federal government established a new School of Dentistry and Health Sciences at Charles Sturt University because of the overwhelming evidence that if you train rural students in rural locations, they are significantly more likely to work in rural areas after they graduate.
 
“Demand for dental and oral health places at Charles Sturt University continues to be exceptionally strong, so there is enormous opportunity here to accelerate our capacity to address rural workforce shortages and the undersupply of dental services in rural areas.
 
“If it is successful in getting funding from the Education Investment Fund, Charles Sturt University is proposing to offer its three-year undergraduate Bachelor of Oral Health (Therapy/Hygiene) in Orange, and expand places into its existing dental program, to cater for strong demand for entry to the program and to improve the flow of skilled dentists and oral health professionals into rural communities.”

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