- Editorial Special Issue Journal of Health Care for Poor and Underserved, Indigenous Oral Health
It is a privilege to introduce the Journal of Health Care for Poor and Underserved’s first issue focussing on Indigenous Oral Health. Papers for this special issue were selected from a suite of presentations made at the first International Indigenous Oral Health Conference held in Adelaide, Australia, in August 2014. This conference (and in turn, the papers in this issue) emerged from the many requests over the years for there to be a specific research meeting focussing on the oral health of Indigenous populations at an international level. The conference hosted over 100 representatives from 25 organizations and nine countries worldwide.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 370 million people at an international level identify as being Indigenous, coming from over 70 different countries. Indigenous people have rich cultures and a wide range of religions, languages, traditions, and histories. According to the WHO definition, a group is considered Indigenous if they have a historical continuity pre- and post-colonisation; strong ties to land; separate social, economic, and political systems; their own languages, culture, and spiritual connections; are a minority population in their own country; and if they if they aim to continue the way of their ancestors as a distinctive community. Many Indigenous people have a holistic understanding of health—one where health encompasses individuals, communities, and spirituality. However, across the globe, Indigenous populations are some of the most disadvantaged populations in terms of health.
An overarching theme of both the conference and papers in this special issue is that oral health is a fundamental human right. Regrettably, Indigenous populations throughout the world, almost without exception, experience worse oral health than their non-Indigenous counterparts. Both the inequities and inequalities in oral health between Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups appear to be widening, with the disparities most apparent among children. The principles of the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved (for which the Journal of Health Care for Poor and Underserved is the official journal) are well-aligned with Indigenous Oral Health Conference principles, namely:
• All members of society, Indigenous and non-Indigenous should have access to affordable quality dental health care.
• Valuing and supporting trans-disciplinary oral health care. [End Page vi]
• Dental health care delivered by culturally-competent, community-responsive professionals.
• Oral health clinicians who care for underserved populations, including Indigenous populations, need to be nurtured and supported in their efforts, because of the unique stresses and personal challenges involved in their work.
• Competent oral clinical practice requires a specialised body of knowledge and skills when working with underserved groups such as Indigenous populations (skills not traditionally addressed in professional dental school curricula).
• Population-based research is essential for the improvement of the oral health status of all underserved populations, including Indigenous populations.
I would like to thank the editor of the Journal of Health Care for Poor and Underserved, Professor Ginny Brennan, as well as the proficient and delightful editorial team, for their enthusiasm and support for this special issue. The special issue includes papers from New Zealand, Canada, Brazil, Australia, the United States, and Sri Lanka. Whilst all focus on the oral health of Indigenous populations, there is a wide range of topics. These include, but are not limited to, intervention trials, population surveys, community development models and case reports; they address the main oral health diseases (dental caries, periodontal disease) and discuss at great length dental service delivery models, their flaws, and some remarkable and innovative solutions.
I hope you enjoy this special issue on Indigenous Oral Health. [End Page vii]
LISA M. JAMIESON is Director, Indigenous Oral Health Unit at the University of Adelaide