We recently asked VOHA Spokesperson Tony McBride about his oral health passion. Below is his response.
Why is oral health important to you?
It’s been a long term passion of mine. I was a community worker in the late 1980s at Kensington Community Health Centre, and oral health was one of the two main issues identified among community members during a consultation. With a group of local community members, we decided to do something about it!
So we decided to build an advocacy campaign around access to public dental care, and in particular to the need to establish a community dental clinic in Kensington/Flemington. From this, the Molar Energy Campaign (which was a play on a topical solar energy initiative) was born. It was evident to us that dental was often a forgotten issue, but poor oral health status is one of the most obvious indicators of poverty. Access to dental services is really about equity.
The campaign eventually became an alliance of 80 organisations statewide, and it contributed to the pressure to establish community dental clinics soon after.
I’ve had involvement on and off with this issue over the years. I was CEO at Health Issues Centre where it became evident that oral health was a key issue among consumers. In 2004 the Australian Dental Association Victoria Branch (ADAVB) reached out to us to form an alliance to advocate for better dental care. This soon became an alliance of ten associations/consumers – the Victorian Oral Health Alliance. After a few years, it ran out of steam. However in 2017, with chronic access issues to public oral health still continuing, the then new CEO of the ADAVB Matt Hopcraft, myself and a couple of others decided to relaunch VOHA (get the band back together) and we now have an active group of organisations sharing the same vision. I’ve been advocating for oral health on and off now for over three decades and through VOHA we are able to use our many contacts and lobbying potential to continue to advocate for a fairer oral health system on behalf of Victorians.