Neglecting Oral Health in National Strategic Frameworks – A Call for Inclusion

In the recent public consultation on the refresh of the National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions, glaring omissions were noted. Dental and oral health conditions were conspicuously absent from the discussion and documentation. This oversight is concerning, given the substantial impact that oral health has on overall well-being. This issue is not new to those in the oral health field; it has persisted for decades.

As the healthcare landscape evolves, it’s imperative to ensure that comprehensive strategies address ALL facets of health and well-being. Recently, concerns have been raised regarding the oversight of dental and oral health conditions in national strategic frameworks, particularly in the context of chronic disease management. This blog explores the significance of including oral health in such frameworks and advocates for its rightful place in public health discourse.

Traditionally, oral health has been viewed separately from general health, leading to a disconnect in healthcare systems. This separation has resulted in oral health being treated as a distinct area of healthcare rather than an integral part of overall health. However, we now understand better the interconnectedness of oral health with overall well-being.

There is a general lack of awareness among the public and healthcare professionals regarding the interconnectedness of oral health with chronic diseases. Many people do not realise that conditions such as periodontal disease can contribute to the development or exacerbation of chronic conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence available connecting oral health and systemic health.

Healthcare systems often operate in silos, with separate providers for medical and dental care and with very little intersection. This fragmentation makes it challenging to integrate oral health into chronic disease management initiatives effectively.

Policy priorities in healthcare often focus on high-profile chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. While these conditions are undoubtedly important, oral health may not receive the same level of attention or priority in strategic planning processes. Addressing these barriers requires a shift in mindset towards viewing oral health as an integral component of overall health and well-being. By raising awareness, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, and integrating oral health into chronic disease management strategies, we can work towards a more holistic approach to health care that addresses the full spectrum of health needs.

Equally troubling is the neglect of the Australian National Oral Health Plan in these deliberations. Despite its relevance and importance, it seems to have been sidelined in the formulation of strategic health policies. This oversight not only undermines the significance of oral health but also disregards the efforts and expertise invested in developing comprehensive oral health plans.

As we strive for inclusive and effective healthcare systems, we cannot afford to overlook any aspect of health, including dental and oral health. Oral health is an integral part of primary care and contributes to general health. By advocating for the inclusion of oral health in national strategic frameworks, we prioritise holistic well-being and ensure that all individuals receive the care and attention they deserve. 

It’s way past time to rectify this exclusion and advocate for the inclusion of dental and oral health in national strategic frameworks. Recognising oral health as an integral part of primary care is essential for promoting holistic health and preventing chronic conditions. Additionally, integrating the National Oral Health Plan into overarching health strategies is imperative for comprehensive healthcare delivery.  Let’s work together to address this oversight and pave the way for a healthier future for all.