Dr Sanjeewa Kularatna, Senior Research Fellow – Health Economics, AusHSI
Sri Lanka Dental Association Keynote address, January 2018.
I was invited to deliver the keynote address at the Sri Lanka Dental Association (Kandy Branch) Annual Scientific sessions, held on the 27 and 28 of January 2018. The Sri Lanka Dental Association is the professional organisation for dentists in Sri Lanka. The scientific sessions included both clinical and public health topics and were organised in Kandy, where the only dental school for the country is situated. I graduated from this dental school in 2001.
I was invited by the current President of the Sri Lanka Dental Association, Dr Manori Jayasingha, a senior lecturer of prosthodontics at the Faculty of Dental Sciences, University of Peradeniya. The audience consisted of dentists working in the region, Dental Faculty academic staff and some final year students as well as medical administrators and academic staff from the Faculty of Medicine.
The title of my talk was “Role of Health Economics in Oral Care”.
Firstly I spoke about AusHSI and the type of research and consultancy work we are currently undertaking. I introduced economic concepts of efficiency and discussed how in healthcare, markets do not function similar to other sectors. I gave examples of how increasing health expenditure does not necessarily lead to improved health outcomes. For this, I compared health expenditure of the OECD countries with respective life expectancies. I explained the welfarist and extra-welfarist approach to answer the questions in healthcare markets. Next I discussed the challenges of identifying, measuring and valuing all cost changes when a health intervention is carried out. I introduced the concept of Quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) in measuring health outcomes and its use in economic evaluation, and finished by providing examples of economic evaluations conducted on oral health interventions.
In a low-and-middle income country, such as Sri Lanka, it is much more important to understand and make use of limited resources in healthcare by finding out cost-effective methods and introducing high value care and disinvesting low value care.
I took the opportunity to stay a couple of days with my mother in Colombo. She launched a new book while I was there, written in the Sinhalese language. It was good to catch up with old friends and relatives who came for this function.