FDI lends the voice of oral health to 200 organizations calling for bold political commitments on NCDs
FDI joined over 200 civil society organizations (CSOs) to welcome the Report of the WHO Independent High-Level Commission on Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs), entitled Time To Deliver, launched on 1 June. However, there are many gaps that still need to be addressed from an oral health perspective and FDI ensured the voice of the oral health community was heard when an official response was drafted by the NCD Alliance.
The WHO Independent High-Level Commission on NCDs was convened by the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros, to advise him on bold recommendations on how countries can accelerate progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.4 on the prevention and treatment of NCDs and the promotion of mental health and well-being.
The report comes ahead of crucial negotiations for the United Nations High-Level Meeting on NCDs (UN HLM) taking place in New York on 27 September 2018, where FDI will be in attendance.
Influencing the final report content
The report was opened for consultation in May and FDI shared the draft with its member organizations and encouraged them to provide feedback and comments. FDI did a full evaluation under the guidance of its Advocacy Task Team to identify gaps and represent the interests of the oral health community to ensure their needs were addressed in any proposed recommendations or policy actions. In summary, FDI emphasized the following omissions in the first draft report to help influence the final content:
Omission: it was very concerning that the report tended to refer only to the four major NCDs when oral diseases and a whole range of other diseases are closely interconnected and linked to the four most prominent NCDs, especially through shared risk factors. Article 19 of the 2011 UN Political Declaration recognized that ‘renal, oral and eye diseases pose a major health burden for many countries and that these diseases share common risk factors and can benefit from common responses to non-communicable diseases’.
Final report: oral disease explicitly mentioned with the following language added ‘There are many other conditions of public health importance that are closely associated with the four major NCDs. They include other NCDs, such as renal, endocrine, neurological, haematological, gastroenterological, hepatic, musculoskeletal, skin and oral diseases and genetic disorders; mental and substance use disorders; disabilities, including blindness and deafness; and violence and injuries.’
Omission: there was no mention of NCD morbidity or co-morbidities only NCD mortality. NCD morbidity and co-morbidities are associated with greater healthcare utilization and financial burden, as a result these conditions can benefit from a comprehensive and integrated response. The inclusion of morbidity is key to ensuring that oral health is addressed when countries are drawing up their national level NCD action plans and prioritized alongside other diseases, especially given nearly every person in the world will be affected by the pain and suffering caused by oral disease.
Final report: recognizes ‘multi-morbidity as a key challenge’ and interventions to address the NCD challenges should be prioritized ‘based on sound country-specific data on morbidity and mortality and their main drivers…’
Omission: reference to the fact that food and drink products high in sugar negatively affect oral health, particularly in children who tend to consume more. There was no mention of WHO’s own stance that Sugar is the primary cause for dental caries (tooth decay) – the most prevalent NCD worldwide which afflicts between 60-90% of schoolchildren. In addition to restricting the marketing of unhealthy products FDI highlighted the importance of fiscal policies.
Final report: the language was disappointing, although it was recommended that governments should give priority to restricting the marketing of unhealthy products (those containing excessive amounts of sugars, sodium, saturated fats and trans fats) to children. There were some conflicting views on fiscal policies that could not be resolved ‘As such, some recommendations, such as reducing sugar consumption through effective taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages and the accountability of the private sector, could not be reflected in this report, despite broad support from many Commissioners.’
Uniting efforts to secure political commitments
Further to the final report being released on 1 June, NCD Alliance coordinated a concerted response and developed a statement into which FDI input.
The statement was signed by 200 CSOs, including FDI, and the co-signatories note that the Commission's report draws a line in the sand on the need for political leaders to accept that progress to date has been severely inadequate and out of step with the growing burden of NCDs. They warn of devastating consequences if the world fails to meet global targets on tackling NCDs and exhort governments to deliver on promises to address NCDs:
"We are impatient for change, and we not only join the Commission in saying is it time for our governments to deliver, but that delivery on commitments is overdue and vital. If countries want to avoid sleepwalking into a sick future, the UN HLM must result in bold commitments and action."
Advocating for oral health
We encourage the oral health community to read the commission’s report and encourage their Head of State and Government to participate in the UN HLM in September. This should be used as an opportunity to educate key political players and policymakers on oral health issues and push for integration of oral disease within policies addressing other NCDs through taking a common risk factor approach.
Read our statement to the 2018 WHO World Health Assembly and use the calls to action to help in the framing of your own messages: