FDI calls for inclusion of oral health in global health policies at World Health Assembly

01 June 2017 WHO

Margaret Chan in her final address as WHO DG to WHA70

The 70th World Health Assembly took place in Geneva, Switzerland, 22–31 May, kicking off with the final opening address of Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General for the World Health Organization (WHO).

"Above all, the most important advice coming from an outgoing Director-General, is to remember the people. Behind every number is a person who defines our common humanity and deserves our compassion, especially when suffering or premature death can be prevented."
Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General 

Dr Chan, in office since 2007, is succeeded by newly appointed Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who has previously served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Health in Ethiopia. The new Director-General will begin his five-year mandate 1 July.

FDI was present to address the World Health Assembly on three key policy issues: antimicrobial resistance (AMR), noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), and the agenda for sustainable development.

Agenda item 12.2: Antimicrobial resistance

FDI urged all governments to hold consultations with National Dental Associations (NDAs) when they develop their AMR national action plans. Highlighting three main activities in the field of AMR throughout the year, FDI first addressed its collaboration with member associations following a survey carried out about the existence of national-level guidelines on AMR. We are currently processing the information gathered to develop recommendations on AMR for the oral health profession. Second, FDI mentioned its participation at the WHO expert consultation on health workforce education and AMR control. We remain ready to join efforts to improve awareness and understanding of AMR through effective communication, education and training. Third, FDI stated that a forum on antimicrobial stewardship will be organized at the World Dental Congress, followed by a report, to further awareness-raising on matters related to oral health.

Agenda item 15.1: Preparation for the third High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (to be held in 2018)

FDI expressed disappointment to see that oral health had disappeared from both outputs and budget lines of the WHO programme budget 2018–2019. Our concern is the mixed messaging from the UN and WHO: on the one hand, Resolution 17 of the 60th World Health Assembly communicates a certain long-term ambition for oral health, and the UN 2011 Political Declaration on NCDs recognizes the value of a common approach to address oral diseases and NCDs; on the other, WHO fails to assign any funding to oral health within its own budget. Therefore, FDI called for 1) prevention of oral disease in the context of NCD control and prevention to be on the agenda of and declaration from the 2018 UN General Assembly on NCDs; and 2) a Global Oral Health Action Plan to be part of the NCD initiative and be framed in terms of the contribution of oral health to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 (related to health and well-being).

Agenda item 16.1: Progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

FDI pointed out the notable absence of oral health in both the report on the progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the World Health Statistics 2017. This can be attributed to the lack of indicators for oral health up until now, but this is about to change soon. Following the adoption of a definition for oral health at our last General Assembly, FDI is now developing a measurement tool to monitor oral health outcomes. Results will be shared with WHO when they become available to find a way to integrate oral health into the 2030 Agenda and its related SDGs.

The World Health Assembly

The World Health Assembly is the supreme decision-making body for WHO. It was attended by some 3,500 delegates from WHO Member States to determine the policies of the organization. Non-State actors in official relations with WHO, like FDI, who contribute to improving public health are also invited to speak in governing bodies’ meetings. This year’s debate focused on ways to advance the 2030 agenda, focusing on building better systems for health.

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