Tan Nguyen, a dental researcher at Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation (IHT), has received a major international award for his work on economic evaluation methods of oral health preventive interventions.

A member of the Deakin Health Economics team, an Honorary Research Fellow, and also a PhD candidate in Health Economics, Tan is an authority on dental public health and health economics.

He was among three recipients of the 2022 Lion Dental Research Award, which supports and recognises improvement in oral health sciences. The awards were presented at the 100th annual International Association for Dental Research (IADR) General Session and Exhibition, which was conducted virtually in 2022.

Tan’s recognition by a peak global dental research organisation is the latest example of how IHT, established by Deakin University in 2019, is tackling complex health challenges while aiming to reduce inequity in health outcomes.

Each year, the Lion Dental Research Award is presented to junior researchers who demonstrate outstanding and innovative research excellence in basic dental science for the improvement of public dental health; and/or in recognition of applied research achievements for the improvement and development of oral care products for the prevention of oral diseases.

Recipients must hold a degree in dentistry or in a scientific discipline, be a junior researcher in pursuit of a postgraduate degree, and actively engaged in research within an IADR scientific group.

A more holistic view of oral health preventive interventions

Tan’s research paper, Economic Evaluations of Oral Health Preventive Interventions: A Systematic Review, was recognised by the IADR’s Oral Health Research group. It is the first paper of his PhD thesis, Assessing Cost-Effectiveness on Oral Health Preventive Interventions.

Key findings of his research paper demonstrate that while economic evaluation studies on preventing dental caries (tooth decay) and periodontitis (severe gum disease) are common, factors including cost components, consequences, and choices for valuing health outcomes hinder policy decision-makers from identifying and making clear investment decisions for oral health.

Tan says his thesis applies an ACE priority-setting approach (Assessing Cost Effectiveness), which incorporates traditional methods of economic evaluation techniques and applying them to a formal priority-setting process. “The goal of priority-setting approaches is to help ensure the efficient use of the available funding budget for healthcare, which considers the maximisation of health, the reduction of health inequities, and financial protection against the costs of ill health,” he says.

In his thesis, economic evaluations will be conducted on six interventions – five focused on preventing dental caries, and one to prevent periodontitis.

“The economic evaluation techniques being applied will enable these interventions to be ranked against each other relative to the cost and health benefit,” Tan says. “They will enable them to be made comparable to other health interventions, and integrate other important implementation considerations the technical analysis may not capture, such as health equity.”