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Major funding for research into improving Māori children’s oral health

High shot of the Information Services Building

Monday 29 March 2010 3:56pm

An innovative University of Otago research project aimed at improving the oral health of Māori children has gained $2,352,328 in funding from the New Zealand Health Research Council.

As part of an international collaboration, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine Associate Professor John Broughton will lead a five-year research project titled: Reducing disease burden and health inequalities arising from chronic dental disease among Indigenous children: an early childhood caries intervention.

The new project involves trialling an oral health intervention with mothers and children in indigenous communities in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, from birth for the first three years of the participating child’s life.

The New Zealand arm of the project will involve Associate Professor Broughton working in a research partnership with Raukura Hauora O Tainui, a Māori health provider in the Waikato-Tainui tribal area.

Associate Professor Broughton says that Māori and other indigenous children tend to have higher rates of tooth decay in early childhood, often causing great suffering and frequently requiring treatment under general anaesthesia.

“Tooth decay in pre-schoolers also has long-term wider health impacts, as it is associated with conditions such as glue ear and nutritional disorders. It is the strongest predictor of poor adult oral health, yet is entirely preventable.”

In the project, dental care will be provided to mothers during pregnancy, fluoride varnishes applied to children’s teeth, and mothers will receive ongoing guidance and support for maintaining good oral health in their children.

“This intervention weaves together several approaches that previous studies have shown to be individually effective in preventing tooth decay in young children. We aim to find out whether employing these strategies in the one initiative will provide even greater benefits.”

The project is funded through the International Collaborative Indigenous Health Research Partnerships (ICIHRP) scheme, which is a joint initiative of the Health Research Council, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

For more information, contact

Associate Professor John Broughton
Department of Preventive and Social Medicine
University of Otago
Tel 64 3 479 7268

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