New FDI strategy sets the scene for my Presidency

28 September 2017

I was honoured to formally take up my position as President of FDI during the World Dental Congress in Madrid in September and am excited by the challenges that lie ahead. To date, FDI has created and sustained programmes important to our members and the people in the countries we serve. We’ve united regions, and achieved financial sustainability. We’ve secured new partnerships, grown our reserves, and ensured that we have the resources we need to accomplish our goal of “leading the world to optimal oral health”. I now look forward to working with FDI Leadership, Committees, Task Teams, Working Groups Partners and Members to deliver the 2018–2021 Strategic Plan, which outlines the strategic goals and priorities that will drive FDI’s work going forward, and was approved by the General Assembly during the World Dental Parliament in September.

It is good to be “doing well”, but now we must focus on “doing good”

This is my motto and this is what we all want: to do good work for our membership, in our role as good advocates for oral health, and to share the knowledge we have in order to do “good work” for our membership. Our new strategic plan will guide us through the next three years. Our members approved the three pillars of this plan – membership, advocacy, and knowledge transfer – and these areas are where we will put our resources.

Our membership goal means that we will develop programmes and activities to meet the needs of our members and help raise the profile of oral health at national levels. Our membership is key to everything we do. With a strong membership we can truly be the worldwide, authoritative voice of dentistry and oral health, for our members and for the public.

We listened to our members in the survey responses sent to us earlier in the year and heard that the membership needs better communication, more support, and more global advocacy to be able to bring ideas and programmes to their countries while advocating for oral health on a global level.

Second, our advocacy goal means we will work to be a leader in improving oral health literacy, and achieving political commitment and action for oral health in all countries. Advocacy impacts membership when we discuss issues affecting our patients and our profession. FDI is the unified voice of dentistry and advocacy at an international level is key but it is important that our efforts are aligned with needs at a national level. We need to be ahead of and identify emerging challenges to the profession before they occur.

Wherever discussions about oral health occur, FDI will be there. We will be there when standards are being developed – not just as a messenger after the fact, but as a voice during the development process, working side-by-side with our affiliate members and other international health organizations. We will be there at the World Health Organization, the World Health Professions Alliance, and the Non-Communicable Disease Alliance meetings to let them know that oral health is an essential component of overall health and work towards implementing integrated strategies.

Finally, our knowledge transfer goal means we will work to foster best practices in oral health science and education, and share knowledge in preventative care and treatment to advance the art, science, and practice of dentistry. This is how we will promote oral health over the next years of our plan and roll out programmes of importance to the oral health community, members and their patients.

Our members, our strength

FDI is a federation of more than 130 member countries around the world. Together we represent 200 member organizations. FDI is where members meet and collaborate. Every member country, every region is important in that collaboration. Every member has a need we must recognize and serve, and we take this responsibility very seriously.

And in today’s world, the role of global organizations like FDI are more important than ever. We play an essential role that isn’t being filled by national or local governments. Politically in our world today there is a pullback from globalization. There’s a movement to look inward, instead of being open and working together.  But in healthcare, globalization thrives. One of the ways this has revolutionized the industry is by making it possible for everyone to access information. That access enables patients to care for their oral and overall health better than ever before.

Working together to break down barriers to oral health

Whilst much progress is being made in oral health we are still faced by borders that are very real, and I’m not just talking about geographic ones. There are borders between countries, yes. There are also borders between people who have access to good healthcare and those who do not.

Our job – as global leaders in oral health – is to recognize these borders, to understand the needs and problems faced by all of our countries, and to look for ways to tear those borders down.

Oral health issues affect more people than any other disease, and yet it has less funding, less advocacy, and less awareness than other diseases. This must change. We all know the value of good oral health, and the problems that poor oral health can cause. It’s up to us to use FDI’s influence to elevate the role oral health plays in medicine and in overall healthcare.

To accomplish this, we need to continue our world-class programmes and include our members in these programmes, where possible, so that the interests of all the world’s dentists can be represented. There aren’t any one-size-fits-all solutions, no silver bullets. But at their core, our global strategies should acknowledge this diversity, and demonstrate respect for all.

Healthcare globally is undergoing dramatic changes: changes in procedures, financing, as well as how we access and share information between colleagues, specialists and patients. Social media has affected our practices and changed what our patients expect from us. Health and oral health are highly affected by what takes place beyond our operatories. Societal changes and cost shifting dictate that prevention is now the goal versus what we have done in the past to only correct problems that occur.

Working together is the only way we will address a disease that today affects nearly 100% of adults worldwide. We can do it. Our organization’s mission is a bold one: to be the global voice of dental professionals, and to work with and through our member organizations to improve the oral health of people worldwide. And I’m looking forward to fulfilling that bold mission together with you.

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