EXTRACTIONS AND EXCLUSION:
RESPONDING TO INEQUITABLE ORAL HEALTH CARE IN CANADA
Bruce B. Wallace
Is a healthy community possible without affordable oral health? Oral health care in Canada is not based on oneís need, but rather on oneís ability to pay. Social exclusion and inequality are directly linked to our oral health, and yet this issue is excluded from the extensive inquiries into universal health care in Canada. Researchers need to take this question seriously; dental infections and pain have considerable impacts on an individualís overall health and ability to work, parent, eat and function every day. Just as we cannot remove the jaw from the rest of our body, we cannot remove dental care from our health and social policies and programs.
This paper raises the often-ignored issue of the inequitable oral health care system in Canada. The issue is illustrated through a presentation of a community action research project in Victoria, BC. The research included a report based on a survey of over 150 people living on low incomes, a further report that creates a business plan for a possible dental clinic, as well as an extensive community involvement and media work. This research project not only raised a critical community issue, it was instrumental in the development of a community-based response through the development of a reduced-fee dental clinic in the downtown. The paper focuses on the value of community-based researchers in the development of initiatives that address poverty and social exclusion and the struggles surrounding participation in these projects.
Bruce Wallace is the Research Coordinator of the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG), a student-based research group at the University of Victoria. He has a long history of anti-poverty organizing including being the founding Executive Director of the Victoria Street Community Association. He has also worked as a sessional instructor at UVicís School of Social Work. His research on poverty and dental care led to the development of a downtown dental clinic in Victoria B.C. providing treatment to people who could otherwise afford dental care. He has a Masters degree in Social Work from Carleton University.
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