WHO approves landmark resolution on global oral health

 31 May 2021

During the 74th session of the World Health Assembly, currently being held (24 May to 1 June 2021), the World Health Organization (WHO) has put oral health firmly back on the global health agenda by approving a resolution proposed earlier in the year by Sri Lanka and other WHO Member States which called on Members to, according to an article released by the FDI World Dental Federation, “address key risk factors for oral diseases, enhance the professional capacity of oral health professionals to delivery consistent and quality care, and to include oral health in universal health coverage programmes.”

Hailed by Dr. Habib Benzian of the WHO Collaborating Center for Quality Improvement and Evidence-based Dentistry at New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry as a “a true tipping point for oral health”, the resolution also “calls on member states to better help oral healthcare professionals detect and report cases of neglect and abuse, as well as strengthen oral health collaboration in key community settings, such as schools and workplaces. Furthermore, it requests the development of a global strategy and action plan in the next two years.” (Dr Biscupid.com)

FDI works hard to ensure that oral health is always included as part of any discussion by world bodies where global health priorities, action plans and targets are debated, and released the following statement in collaboration with the International Association for Dental Research in support of the resolution.

On behalf of FDI World Dental Federation, representing over 1 million dentists, and the International Association for Dental Research, representing over 10,000 researchers, supported by Smile Train, NCDA, IDF, ISN, WHF and WSO, we thank Sri Lanka for leading the resolution on Oral health.

Oral diseases affect almost half of the world’s population and are strongly associated with other NCDs. Optimal oral health for all will only be achieved if the response is integrated within the NCD and UHC agendas. We urge Member States to adopt the proposed resolution and strengthen its implementation by:

1. Addressing orofacial clefts, access to affordable fluoridated toothpaste, and community-based fluoridation where relevant, as advised by the updated DG’s report.

2. Promoting dental research to strengthen evidence on prevention, oral health disparities, oral disease associations with other NCDs such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, mental and neurological disorders, chronic respiratory diseases, and cancers; and research into full alternatives to dental amalgam, being affordable and accessible.

3. Meaningfully engaging people living with oral diseases, oral health professionals, national dental associations, and other civil society organizations in oral health programmes.

4. Ensuring that future processes, such as the proposed resolution on Diabetes and the upcoming 2023–2030 NCD implementation roadmap, integrate and align with the resolution on Oral health.

Member States must ensure that the proposed global oral health strategy, action plan, 2030 targets, and “best buys” aim to integrate oral health into national NCD strategies and health budgets, focusing on shared risk factors; including essential oral health services into UHC benefits packages; strengthening the oral health workforce through multidisciplinary care teams; and improving oral health surveillance.

To support this, FDI’s Vision 2030: Delivering Optimal Oral Health for All report provides several examples of national action on integrated oral health.