Dental van roadshow supports public housing residents
Community health provider Cohealth is supporting residents living in public housing high-rise estates in Melbourne’s north and west, including Carlton, with access to mobile dental services.
Having conducted a survey which found that three quarters of people living in public housing were unaware they were eligible for free dental, Cohealth has initiated a dental van roadshow to meet residents onsite.
According to the “Community Connectors” survey of 4000 people, four-in-10 public housing residents named dental care as their most needed, yet least accessible service. Respondents also reported living with dental pain for years because they were reluctant to access dental services due to wait times, language barriers, low health literacy and cost.
In response to the findings, Cohealth kicked off the dental van roadshow in January, which will bring free dental treatment to public housing residents aged 18 and over who might not otherwise access oral healthcare.
The dental roadshow was initiated by the cohealth Community Connectors, a Victorian Government funded program which bridges health gaps for people living in public housing and will see the vans set up at high rise estates in Carlton, Williamstown, North Melbourne and Fitzroy.
The current wait time for public dental is 26 months according to the Australian Dental Association of Victoria, and cohealth has long advocated for increased funding for public dental programs.
According to Cohealth, due to many of the residents having delayed seeking oral health care their tooth problems are much worse, meaning fillings, tooth extractions and the need for follow-up appointments are more likely.
Speaking about one person she interviewed, Community Connector Coordinator Gurjot Kaur said, “They knew the waiting list for dental treatment was incredibly long, so even if they had level-10 pain, they would just take a Panadol because they thought there’s no way they could get it fixed.”
“Whether it was a slight problem or a very big problem, they were convinced that care was so out of reach, or that no clinic had time for them.”
Acting Chief Executive of Cohealth Christopher Turner said that community health services played an integral role in bringing healthcare to people who faced the greatest barriers to care.
“One of the cornerstones of Cohealth’s model of care is that no client is ‘hard to reach’, but rather, institutions and services can be,” Mr Turner said.
Rather than expecting clients who face healthcare barriers to come to us, sometimes we achieve the best outcome by meeting them where they are and making sure the service meets their unique needs.
“Through the Cohealth Community Connectors, we are bringing culturally safe, trauma-informed oral healthcare to people’s front door.”
Acting Housing Minister for Housing Anthony Carbines said the government had invested $8.5 million into the program to link public housing residents to preventative and early intervention health services.
“We’re so proud to see the delivery of free dental services across the north and west to people who might not otherwise have access to oral healthcare,” Mr Carbines said. •
Caption: Public housing resident, Muhubo (centre) with Cohealth Community Connectors Hodan Noor (right) and Naima Bulle (left) in front of the Cohealth dental van at Carlton public housing high rise.