Pledge on health at Shanghai Conference
The recently adopted Shanghai Declaration on Promoting Health in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs) pledges governments to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs through increased political commitment and financial investment in health promotion.
The Declaration resulted from the 9th Global Conference on Health Promotion, held in Shanghai 21-24 November 2016. The Conference, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the landmark Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, was co-organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China
It assembled more than 1,200 ministers, government officials, mayors and experts from 120 countries to discuss the future of health promotion in the era of the SDGs.
Health promotion and human behaviour
In her keynote address, Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, pointed out that ‘Health promotion is essentially about changing human behaviours, and there is nothing harder to do in all of public health,” adding, “Evidence shows that reshaping unhealthy environments does more to promote health than campaigns that try to persuade changes using health messages alone.”
She noted resistance to effective measures by powerful industry groups, singling out efforts by the tobacco industry to frustrate national anti-tobacco legislation and the beverage industry to curtail measures to combat childhood obesity targeting sugar consumption.
As an example, she detailed industry’s ‘swift and predictable’ reaction when, in October, WHO urged governments to introduce taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages to reduce their significant contribution to obesity, diabetes, and dental decay. First, soda taxes do not work, despite evidence to the contrary. Second, soda taxes are regressive as they punish the poor.
“Ministries of health nearly always have their facts and evidence straight, but ministries of finance, trade, agriculture, and foreign affairs are more susceptible to persuasion by industry arguments.”
Her advice: “Out-shout industry with the facts.”
Dr Habib Benzian, one of the Editor-in-Chiefs of ‘The Challenge of oral disease – A call to action’, which constitutes the 2nd edition of the Oral Health Atlas (©FDI World Dental Federation 2015) was in Shanghai to present the Fit for School concept on behalf of the German Development Cooperation during a session highlighting the relevance of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for the SDGs.
This concept integrates WASH improvements in schools with essential school health interventions, such as deworming and daily toothbrushing with a fluoride toothpaste, and currently reaches 3 million children daily. Dr Benzian also seized the opportunity to share a copy of the Oral Health Atlas and discuss the oral health policy of Nepal with Nepalese Minister of Health Mr Gagan Kumar Thapa.
Nepal’s primary healthcare system is facing major challenges, the complicated geography being one of them. The country’s oral health policy dates from 2014 and replaces an earlier one from 2004. It is aligned with the Regional Strategy for Oral Health 2013-2020 of the WHO South East Asia Regional Office.
The government of Nepal is committed to including oral health in a comprehensive response to noncommunicable diseases in Nepal, despite a shortage of qualified oral health personnel, training of mid-level providers, and primary health workers in providing basic oral care. There is also a significant challenge of regulating private sector dental education so that quality standards are maintained.