Poche Oral Health Initiative wins higher education award

28 October 2015

The Poche Centre for Indigenous Health's mobile oral health service won the Community Engagement category of the inaugural Australian Financial Review Higher Education Awards.

A University initiative which has improved the oral health of hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people in rural and remote parts of Australia has won an award recognising outstanding achievement in the higher education sector.

The Poche Centre for Indigenous Health’s mobile oral health service was a recipient of an Australian Financial Review Higher Education Award, winning the Community Engagement category of the inaugural awards.

The initiative has helped establish oral health services in nine remote NSW communities including Boggabilla, Toomelah and Mungindi.

It has created unique mobile dental and laboratory facilities able to provide the best dentistry available anywhere in the state.

Among its services is a van which travels from town to town which can fit and supply up to 12 sets of dentures in four days, providing functional teeth, dignity and helping those who have waited upwards of six-years for public dentures.  

The service began two years ago and this year alone has delivered more than 10,000 in rural and remote areas.

“Our partnerships, commercial model, and technology have combined to build this fantastic service,” says Poche Centre Director Kylie Gwynne.

“Not only is it improving the oral health of hundreds of Aboriginal people who would otherwise wait years for much needed treatment, it also provides scholarships and career pathways for Aboriginal people to deliver oral health services.”

“Engaging students in the program means they gain a unique rural and remote oral health experience which informs their practice and builds their cultural competence.”

Half of the ‘Healthy Teeth Strategy’ staff are Aboriginal and the initiative has assisted 14 Aboriginal people to qualify as dental assistants, all of whom are employed. Two graduates are now undertaking a Diploma in Dental Technology, one is preparing for entry to the Bachelor of Oral Health and another 20 have commenced the Certificate III or IV in Dental Assisting.

“The ‘Healthy Teeth Strategy’ wouldn’t be the success it is without our partners and we share this award with them,” says Ms Gwynne.

Partners are:

  • The NSW Centre for Oral Health Strategy
  • NSW Dental Council
  • Armajun Aboriginal Health Service
  • Pius X Aboriginal Health Service
  • Ungooroo Aboriginal Health Service
  • Hunter New England Local Health District
  • Varley
  • Hearing and Dental
  • NSW TAFE – Sydney Institute and OTEN
  • Faculties of Dentistry at the University of Sydney, University Melbourne and University of Western Australia
  • Australian Dental Association NSW
  • AITEC and the Commonwealth Government Graduate Dentist and Oral Health Therapist Programs
  • Greg Poche AO and Kay Van Norton Poche
  • Co-founder Reg Richardson AM
  • Patron Tom Calma AO

Jocelyn Prasad

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