Researchers recruit Pasifika adolescents for oral health study
DUNEDIN, New Zealand: The multicultural element of New Zealand society is something that brings with it many positives, but it can also create certain barriers for some groups. Among these many cultures, the Pacific Islanders make up a large proportion of the society, and in a new study, researchers from the University of Otago in Dunedin recruited Pasifika adolescents to interview groups of their peers about their understanding and experiences of oral healthcare and their attitudes towards it.
Despite dental care being free for all New Zealanders under 18, research shows that Pasifika adolescents living in New Zealand are less likely than their peers of other ethnicities to access it. In the first study of its kind, the researchers decided to source information directly from the group of interest in order to understand more accurately why this might be and what some of the most significant issues are.
According to the study, 17 Pasifika adolescents from four cities in various parts of New Zealand facilitated focus groups with 59 of their Pasifika peers. From the data collected, the researchers then conducted an inductive thematic analysis, and the paper focused on one central theme that emerged: the participants’ suggestions for increasing access to oral healthcare. Suggestions included reducing the cost of oral healthcare and oral health products; making access to clinics easier, including having transport arranged or having dentists visit schools; making the clinical environment more welcoming and youth-friendly; and having more approachable, younger and Pasifika or Maori oral health professionals working in the dental profession.
“Policymakers should look at implementing at least some of these suggestions for change, or at least treating them as a conversation starter on how to address the inequities in Pasifika adolescents’ oral healthcare access,” said lead author Dr Lee Smith, a research fellow in the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Otago.
Other recommendations dealt with increasing the emphasis placed on oral health in Pasifika families and communities through education, for example, by means of pamphlet drops in churches and advertising on visual and social media. It was suggested that this may be more effective in Pasifika languages.
The study, titled “Pasiﬁka adolescents’ recommendations for increasing access to oral health care”, was published in the March 2019 issue of the New Zealand Dental Journal.