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Starts project to improve access to affordable oral health care

24 August 2022
Beginning September 2022, the DELIVER project (DELiberative ImproVEment of oRal care quality) will start. Within this project, researchers from 7 EU countries are working together to improve access to affordable oral care for EU citizens.

The project receives 5 million euros in funding from the Horizon Europe Research Programme, of which the Academic Centre for Dentistry (ACTA) will receive 800,000 euros. 

Oral diseases are in the top 3 most expensive conditions worldwide; 3.5 billion people suffer from oral diseases. Delayed oral care not only leads to painful and sometimes life-threatening abscesses, but also contributes to high social costs.

Because of the necessary co-payments in oral care costs, access to affordable oral care has been a problem for years. Adverse selection and selective exclusion from oral health care appears to exist in all EU countries. More and more people living in poverty and social deprivation can no longer afford oral health care, even though they need oral health care the most. This financial constraint in access to oral health care does not appear to depend on the wealth of countries. The adverse consequences of this unequal distribution in access to oral health care are visible in society in the Netherlands and other EU countries: socioeconomic disparities in oral health in cities and beyond are increasing in recent years. The oral care and oral health of specifically people living in poverty and social deprivation is under pressure. 

Within the DELIVER project, the researchers aim to improve access to affordable oral health care for EU citizens, with a greater focus on effective prevention, through constructive dialogue of experiential socially vulnerable citizens, oral health professionals, health insurers and policy makers. In DELIVER work package 4, ACTA, in close collaboration with researchers from Denmark and Germany, is looking for solutions to deficiencies in access to oral health care. This is investigated in 4 major cities and 4 areas outside (2 each in the Netherlands and Denmark). In doing so, the research focuses specifically on the needs of people living in poverty and social deprivation. Citizens from this target group determine which solutions are prioritised, adapted to local policies and the organisation of oral care. Their experiences with oral care, their demand for oral care and their perspective on oral care are decisive.

Geert van der Heijden coordinates DELIVER work package 4. He is UvA professor of Social Dentistry at ACTA's Society and Oral Health Section. He says: "If you want people living in poverty and social deprivation to have access to affordable effective oral health care, more attention is needed to components of policy and organisation that limit access to oral health care." 

"Preaching from the academic ivory tower about socio-economic disparities in oral health does not work, and advocacy and emergency response is insufficient. More and something else needs to be done to break the counterproductive selection and selective exclusion within oral health care, reduce oral health disparities and increase the societal benefits of oral health care in our society. The policy and organisation of oral health care can and must be improved. This should explicitly take into account people who are currently excluded."