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10 Oct 2013 | Press Release

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Dentists do their bit every week, including Anti-Poverty Week

Philanthropy, Charity and Volunteering

During Anti-Poverty Week (APW) the Australian Dental Association Inc. (ADA) will highlight issues of poverty and hardship in Australia, and outline the dental profession's contribution to assist those in need.

APW is organised by welfare and health organisations, religious groups, community organisations, schools and youth groups. Many other types of organisations also arrange activities, including government departments, local councils, business organisations, universities and sporting and cultural groups. APW is held from 13–19 October.

The main aims of Anti-Poverty Week are to:

  • Strengthen public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship around the world and in Australia.
  • Encourage research, discussion and action to address these problems, including action by individuals, communities, organisations and governments.

Federal President of the ADA, Dr Karin Alexander, said: "The vast range of activities and involvement by the community sector, not-for-profit sector, private sector, industry and government in APW shows that only when we all work together can we help address poverty in Australia. The dental profession does its part through its pro bono dental work."

The ADA's 2010 Dental Practice Survey outlines the average number of days that volunteering dentists spend away from practices to assist others in the community:

Area of assistanceAverage number of days volunteering
Working in hospital23
Handicapped patients7
Aged care/Nursing homes8

Dr Alexander continued, "Dentists provide a wide range of pro bono work for the community, and are amongst those volunteers who contribute more than 700 million hours of unpaid work each year, with the value of that unpaid labour estimated by government to be almost $15 billion".

"All of us need to do our bit to alleviate the barriers that poverty imposes on our most vulnerable. For example, dentists' volunteering targets patients' immediate oral health, which has flow-on impacts to their overall health and mental wellbeing. Patients' self-esteem, employment prospects, work habits, family and community relationships can be strengthened by the contributions of one health profession. Any calculation of the value of this pro bono work needs to take these factors into account.

"However, dentists alone cannot address the lack of access to dental care experienced by 30% of the Australian community. The dental profession is ready to assist the Australian government and all parties to ensure that the Child Dental Benefits Scheme and dental agreements with the States and Territories provide comprehensive, not basic treatment, and to ensure that funding is efficiently targeted to address disadvantaged Australians' dental care needs."

"Poverty is a national problem that requires all stakeholders and government to develop national solutions."

The ADA has its own plan for addressing disadvantaged Australians' dental needs:

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