Identifying and Ranking Areas of Relative Need for New Public Dental Clinics Using a State-of-the-Art Data Simulation Approach
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Background: Lower socioeconomic groups and country residents are more likely to experience dental disease. Previous research has found that it is generally more cost effective to provide subsidised dental care through publically employed dentists when compared to subcontracting the work out to the private sector.
Objective: The primary objective of this study was to identify and rank areas of relative need for new public dental care facilities across Australia. The secondary objective was to gauge how many of these areas are
located in the vicinity of an existing public hospital (medical) with a view to utilise existing infrastructure for future service rollout.
Methods: Usual resident population, employment status and socioeconomic distribution data was downloaded from the Australian Bureau of Statistics website at Statistical Area 1 level. A mathematical weighing formula was applied to those variables, which subsequently allowed for ranking of the results based on magnitude of the product values. The findings were considered in terms of proximity to existing public health infrastructure.
Results: A total of 49 SA1 areas were identified and preselected as potential sites for new public dental clinics across Australia. Eighty per cent of the identified areas of relative need were located outside metropolitan
areas. Fifty per cent of those were found to be in close proximity to an existing public hospital (medical).
Conclusion: Offering subsidised dental care through existing public hospitals may be an option. Such an approach has a potential to improve access to subsidised dental care in regional centres while minimising capital
expenditure on infrastructure.
Abbreviations: ABS – Australian Bureau of Statistics; ASGS – Australian Statistical Geography Standard; SEIFA – Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas