Smile Squad

The smilesquad.vic.gov.au website (last updated August 2019) describes Smile Squad as:

A Victorian Government program that will provide all Victorian public primary and secondary school students with free dental care. Dental vans start visiting a limited number of schools in the pilot phase from Term 3 2019, with the full Victorian roll-out commencing from Term 1, 2020.

A February media release (11/2/20) from Education Minister James Merlino announced: 146 new primary and secondary schools will be invited to join the Smile Squad program in 2020 in Campaspe, East Gippsland, Macedon Ranges, Maribyrnong, Melton, Wangaratta and parts of Casey and Hume Smile Squad vans are also visiting schools in Brimbank, Buloke, Greater Bendigo, Hepburn, Latrobe, Mansfield, and Towong, joining schools in South Barwon, Box Hill, Cranbourne and Wodonga that received a visit last year. An extra 300 schools will be invited to participate, involving more than 100,000 additional Victorian students. The program, along with much of the non-emergency public dental care, has however been put on hold during the pandemic and will resume as soon as feasible.

VOHA acknowledges it is still early days for Smile Squad and the Victorian Government is clearly focused on building up the program over the next year or so. Whilst VOHA congratulated the Government at the time on its planned investment in children’s oral health, VOHA and members individually have also shared some concerns about the design of the program and its implications for family-based care and the likely effectiveness of health education when no parents are present. However, more positively, it would appear that some aspects of the original design have evolved over time into more feasible approaches. In qualitative terms, however, VOHA does not yet have a full sense of how the implementation is progressing to date and the degree to which desired goals are being achieved. VOHA is therefore waiting and watching before we offer any further constructive feedback on its strengths and weaknesses.

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