By LULU MARK
PAPUA New Guinea has one the highest rates of oral cancer in the world but dental health has not been included in the national health plan, a doctor says.
University of Tasmania’s College of Health and Medicine associate professor and visiting lecturer to University of Papua New Guinea School of Medicine and Health Sciences Dr Leonard Crocombe said oral health needed to be given the attention it deserved.
He said poor oral health was a critical factor linked to heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, arthritis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disease and pregnancy conditions which included pre-term low birth weight babies.
“Good oral health is essential for a person’s quality of life and for the general health,” Crocombe said.
However, he said oral health was way down on the health priority scale in PNG.
He said there was lack of government funding for an increasing range and severity of health problems and much of the equipment were aging and not well maintained.
“It is a tragedy that oral health was not included in the National Health Plan (NHP) 2010-2020.
“I hope that it will be included in the new NHP.”
He said people were coming to hospitals to get their teeth extracted or filled because dentistry had not reached the medical model yet in PNG where dental diseases could be detected and identified using medical examinations, tests or set of symptoms descriptions which were done for other diseases.
He said having the oral health in the NHP would go a long way in addressing the dental challenges and its associated problems.
Crocombe said the current oral health status in PNG were:

He said the PNG Dental Association would work on a policy document and called for government support.
The Health Department’s policy planning and panning manager Agnes Pawong said the dental health fraternity, through their office under the National Health Standards, needed to formulate a comprehensive policy for dental health and submit to the department.
She said without the policy, oral health could not be included in the next NHP which meant there would be no funding.
Pawong urged the dental workforce in the country to submit their reports if they had not been doing so in order to contribute to the formulation of the policy.