Worlds apart – but together in FDI

27 July 2017

The 12,000-kilometre distance between Astana (Kazakhstan) and Mexico City, two locations where I have addressed audiences on behalf of FDI, impressed upon me once again the breadth of FDI’s influence worldwide, over cultures and languages - and how our federation’s views, programmes and activities are of interest to all those who care about the status of oral health in the world today.

FDI is characterized by this inclusivity, which will once again be on display during the 2017 World Dental Congress in Madrid, with more international participants than ever before. We are once again looking forward to the meetings of the World Dental Parliament and the rich discussions that will take place concerning the future of dentistry in low-, middle- and high-income countries alike.

This year, six new and three revised Policy Statements, if adopted by the General Assembly, make their important contribution to current thinking on various issues related to oral health, oral health policies and the dental profession.

A national committee

It was especially important to have the opportunity of visiting Astana and meeting with the Minister of Health of Kazakhstan to discuss issues related to oral health at national and regional level. I also met with members of the newly-formed FDI national committee for Kazakhstan, composed of the Kazakhstan Stomatological Association (KSA) and the United Kazakhstan Association of Dentists, with a combined membership of 2214 dental practitioners.

In my address to the opening of their national dental congress on the role of FDI in the development of worldwide dentistry and its actions on behalf of its members, I brought them up to date with the latest information on the oral health definition, FDI advocacy objectives, regional strategy and current programmes and activities.

FDI and prevention

I was also pleased to be able to address a gathering of oral health practitioners in Mexico City on the subject that is key to FDI worldwide activities: the role of our federation in the prevention of oral diseases through five specific activities: the definition of oral health and associated tools and indicators, advocacy, oral health campaigns, projects and activities to improve oral health and policy statements.

I took the opportunity of highlighting the major role that Mexico has played in FDI advocacy on the reduction of sugars intake, in line with the recommendations of the World Health Organization. Mexico, I pointed out, has been in the vanguard of countries facing down corporate interests and enacting population wide sugar reduction policies. The principal aim is to lower the country’s burden of obesity and diabetes but the measures will also have a positive impact on reducing dental caries.

World Oral Health Day at the Congress

Traditionally, the International Association of Dental Students (IADS) holds its annual session during the FDI World Dental Congress, and this year is no exception. I would like to take this opportunity to salute the work of IADS in supporting World Oral Health Day and encouraging the participation of their members around the world, who regularly create some of the most astonishing and innovative activities to celebrate.

IADS members are also recognized by FDI through the annual WOHD prizes, which reward the most original activity, the best branded photograph, best media campaign, and most educational activity. This year’s winners are from Egypt, Palestine, Spain and Sudan. I invite you to the WOHD 2017 prizegiving, which takes place during WOHD 2018 launch on 31 August at 11:00.

OHO: an investigative tool

Our congress will also see the unveiling of the Oral Health Observatory (OHO) tablet-based application. The OHO is a new tool designed by FDI to measure perceptions and realities within dental practices and is being rolled out in 10 countries as part of an official FDI research programme, carried out by national dental associations and involving between 20 and 70 dental practices per country.

I would like to personally thank the Associazione Nazionale Dentisti Italiani, the Chinese Stomatological Association, the Colégio de Cirujanos Dentistas de Costa Rica, the Indian Dental Association, the Indonesian Dental Association, the Japan Dental Association, the Kenya Dental Association, the Polish Chamber of Physicians and Dentists and the South African Dental Association for their participation in this important FDI project.

The results of the research will contribute to advocacy for better oral health services and a higher priority assigned to oral health on the national and international health agenda. I encourage you to go and see the app at the FDI booth – if you are feeling lucky, you may win a tablet computer with the OHO app pre-installed and use it to participate in cutting-edge research into dental practice from the point of view of the practitioner and patient, or use it for valuable feedback from your own patients.

Find out more about FDI advocacy

Regular readers of my monthly ‘Letter’ are well aware of the emphasis I have placed on FDI advocacy and its contribution to public health policy. Our current approach takes advantage of the impetus on the prevention and control non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the light of the 2018 United Nations High-level meeting on the subject.

For those of you who would like to learn more, a special joint session with FDI and its partner, the NCD Alliance (NCDA, will take place on 30 August titled ‘No health without oral health: how the dental community can leverage the NCD agenda to deliver on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals’. The session is chaired by Prof. Claudio Fernandes and features exceptional speakers, among them NCD Alliance CEO Katie Dain, Prof. David Williams and Dr Rob Beaglehole.

The NCDA unites 2,000 civil society organizations in more than 170 countries, dedicated to improving NCD prevention and control worldwide. FDI is a member of the NCDA Supporters Consultation Group.

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