Addressing Healthcare Inequalities Head-on

Pioneering work by an internationally-recognised specialist in community-centred health is delivering a fascinating insight into the intricacies of the three-way interaction between a child, the adults they depend on, and healthcare professionals.

Professor Mark Gussy, Global Professor in Rural Health and Social Care at the University of Lincoln, has a clinical background in oral health, and it was while serving rural communities in Australia that his interest developed in understanding the causes of the health inequalities that he witnessed among different communities.

He has a special interest in child oral health, and how children can be particularly vulnerable when it comes to health inequalities.

Professor Gussy has led extensive studies into the causes of early childhood caries (ECC) - one of the most prevalent diseases in children aged six years and under worldwide. ECC is the presence of cavities in the teeth of children under 71 months, and although largely diet related, is a multifactorial disease. While largely preventable, it remains a major public health issue in nations across the globe, causing pain and distress for children, impacting quality of life for families, and resulting in huge economic burden for communities and their health services.

His research over the last decade has focused on those communities that fall outside of the mainstream health and social care systems, revealing how entrenched systems and approaches can disadvantage the most vulnerable.

His work has directly influenced health policy and practice in Australia and internationally and he has secured research grants totalling more than $5 million Australian dollars to conduct studies across national and international cross-disciplinary networks. This includes major studies of the environmental, socioeconomic, and biological predictors of ECC, assessment of the health impact of changes to drinking water quality, and evaluations of community participation in healthcare planning.

Professor Gussy said: "Disease expresses itself in a similar way whatever country you are in. It’s the burden of disease that changes dependent on location and that is related to political economy and health service structures."

When you first identity health inequalities, the first response is often ‘we need more doctors or another clinic’, but when you actually work with communities to explore potential solutions and their aspirations, quite often by the end of that process their response is quite different. Engaging with communities to understand what the problems are and trying to find simple solutions that are context appropriate can be extremely empowering for people and bring solutions that are more sustainable.

Professor Mark Gussy

Professor Gussy’s body of research on the effectiveness of community-led healthcare trials has shown that relatively simple interventions can be more effective and sustainable than attempting to impose expensive western models of healthcare in resource poor areas, particularly in dispersed rural communities that lack the infrastructure of large towns and cities.

At the University of Lincoln, Professor Gussy continues his work alongside different communities, fulfilling his commitment that extends beyond educating citizens to a much broader social responsibility.

Meet the Expert

Professor Mark Gussy
Global Professor in Rural Health and Socail Care
College of Social Science

Professor Mark Gussy is a Global Professor in Rural Health and Social Care at the University of Lincoln.

With a specialist interest in community-centred health, Professor Gussy is internationally renowned for his research into child oral health and the significant healthcare inequalities different communities can face. His research over the last decade led him to focus on those communities that fall outside of the mainstream health and social care systems, revealing how entrenched systems and approaches can disadvantage the most vulnerable.

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