FDI keeps oral health on non-communicable disease agenda

13 February 2017 Policy

Dentists and oral health are once again contributing to the international agenda on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Speaking at the 140th Executive Board Meeting (EB140) of the World Health Organization in late January, FDI emphasized that oral health promotion can help achieve four of nine voluntary targets in the NCD global action plan 2013–2020.

FDI made its statement within the context of preparations for the third United Nations High-level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of NCDs, to be held in 2018. The preparations envisage, among other things, a format to register and publish contributions of non-State actors, such as FDI.

Taking a common risk factor approach

In its statement, FDI pointed out that oral health and disease prevention campaigns are a convincing and cost-effective way of promoting healthy behaviours to prevent other NCDs through the common risk factor approach. Campaigns such as World Oral Health Day educate people on the importance of avoiding unhealthy diets (particularly those rich in sugars), tobacco and harmful use of alcohol. Risk factors that are shared with many other NCDs. One could argue that these targets cannot be reached unless oral disease – affecting 90% of the world’s population during their lifetime – is addressed.

These campaigns can therefore make significant and direct contributions to achieving:

  • Target 1: A 25% relative reduction in the overall mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, or chronic respiratory diseases;
  • Target 2: At least 10% relative reduction in the harmful use of alcohol, as appropriate, within the national context;
  • Target 5: A 30% relative reduction in prevalence of current tobacco use in persons aged 15+ years; and
  • Target 7: Halt the rise in diabetes and obesity[1].

“Oral health campaigns, with their positive messaging and potential to appeal to self-confidence promise a more immediate pay-off than appeals that frequently sound judgmental, with no immediate visible benefit,”
emphasized FDI.

The NCD global agenda

The NCD global action plan 2013–2020 came into being as a result of the Political Declaration on Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2011. A combination of FDI, working with other groups in international oral health advocacy as well as active lobbying by FDI members with their own national governments, achieved the goal of including oral diseases in the Declaration.

FDI has also led an international NCD campaign on behalf of its partners in the World Health Professions Alliance WHPA, which featured an NCD toolkit and health improvement card (HIP) for health practitioners and patients (2011) an interactive campaign website developed from the toolkit (2012), and a HIP app called HealthyScore, launched in 2014.

Vision 2020 Task Team lead advocacy efforts

The Vision 2020 Task Team oversee all FDI’s advocacy activities and it was under their guidance that the statements for the EB140 were prepared. In line with the Vision 2020 strategy they help ensure the interests of the oral health community are represented at global platforms such as the WHO Executive Board and the World Health Assembly, which will take place in May.


[1] The other targets are: Target 3: A 10% relative reduction in prevalence of insufficient physical activity; Target 4: A 30% relative reduction in mean population intake of salt/sodium; Target 6: A 25% relative reduction in the prevalence of raised blood pressure or contain the prevalence of raised blood pressure, according to national circumstances; Target 8: At least 50% of eligible people receive drug therapy and counselling (including glycaemic control) to prevent heart attacks and strokes; and Target 9: An 80% availability of the affordable basic technologies and essential medicines, including generics, required to treat major NCDs in both public and private facilities.