Reconsidering economic interventions to reduce oral health inequalities
Despite the general recognition of economic factors as fundamental upstream social determinants of health inequalities, interventions to improve health and reduce inequalities tend to focus on proximal health determinants. However, recent socioeconomic crises have increased the focus on economic factors. Health-related approaches to address economic factors can be divided into two categories: (1) indirect approaches, such as financial support for obtaining dental care and fiscal policies targeting unhealthy commodities and (2) direct approaches, such as cash transfers or provision of a universal basic income. For indirect approaches, policies reducing out-of-pocket payments for dental care appear to improve access to services and reduce oral health inequalities. Price policies targeting tobacco and sugar through taxation are associated with declines in periodontal disease and caries, and sugar taxation appears to reduce oral health inequalities. As regards direct approaches, studies on cash transfers to low-income individuals have found no positive impact on dental visits, while results in relation to caries prevention were inconclusive. No dental studies examined the effect of a population approach to income security, such as basic income. Research on economic interventions for oral health inequalities is scarce, and studies using causal inference methods and natural experiments are urgently needed.
Department of Oral Health Promotion,
Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences,
Tokyo Medical and Dental University(TMDU)
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