Benedetti, Guido and Stauf, Nicole and Strohmenger, Laura and Campus, Guglielmo Giuseppe and Benzian, Habib (2015) Political priority of oral health in Italy: an analysis of reasons for national neglect. International dental journal, Vol. 65 (2), p. 89-95. ISSN 0020-6539. eISSN 1875-595X. Article.
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Purpose Oral health remains a neglected area and its political priority on most national agendas is low. This analysis aimed to identify the political priority of oral health in Italy. Background Italian public health services are decentralised at the regional level and are financed by both central and local authorities. Despite certain legally guaranteed public oral health services, access to oral health care seems to be inhomogeneous. Methods Appraisal of the political priority of oral health in Italy uses the Political Power Framework as proposed by Shiffman and Smith. Results and Discussion There is no clear mandate for leadership or coordination within the oral health sector, resulting in fragmentation and in dominance of the private sector. As a consequence, oral diseases are mainly addressed through a curative rather than a preventive public health approach. Current, systematic and representative data are lacking. Therefore, the real burden of oral diseases is unknown and thus cannot be addressed adequately. Evidence-based, cost-effective and sustainable population-wide public dental health interventions are not implemented on a large scale, and growing inequities in terms of access to care are not seen as a concern. Conclusion Lack of relevant policies with a public health focus, absence of systematic oral health surveillance and limited access to care for large population groups are strong indicators that oral health is not a political priority. However, opportunities in the wider political environment could be used to facilitate analysis, discussion and change in order to improve political priority of oral health in Italy.
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