Author(s): I Perera
Objective: To test the hypothesis: the distribution of rural fixed adult public dental clinics of the states of Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria reflected the population characteristics and burden of oral disease by making use of geo-coding. Design: A cross-sectional study design was used integrating data from open access sources. The longitudes and latitudes of each clinic were obtained through a free access geo-coding website. Population data were obtained from the Australian Census of Population and Housing 2006, divided by collection districts defined by geographic boundaries. Socioeconomic data by the Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage (IRSD) aggregated to census collection districts were also obtained from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. ArcGIS9 software was used to generate individual and overlay maps incorporating all data bases as mentioned before. Setting: The study included data from three states of Australia: Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria. Main outcome measures: We used a normative 200 kilometres radius from a fixed adult public dental clinic as the cut off limit to operationalise the accessibility. Findings: Distinct disparities were evident in access to rural fixed adult public dental clinics in the three states. The Victorian population enjoyed the highest level of access. On the contrary, Western Australians appeared to be the worst affected and Queenslanders were placed in between. The same pattern was emulated in terms of socio-economic gradient in the three states as the greatest proportion of people outside the 200 kilometre radius were those who in the lower half of the IRSD deciles. Conclusions: The distribution of fixed public dental clinics did not reflect the population characteristics and burden of oral disease. The spatial approach provides a useful tool in planning public dental clinics in Australia.