72nd World Health Assembly misses critical opportunity to drive action on oral health

29 May 2019 WHO

Last week Member States gathered for the 72nd World Health Assembly (WHA72) in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss pressing global health issues, including the lack of progress on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). During WHA72 Member States pledged to accelerate and scale up action to prevent and treat NCDs but failed to take tangible action on oral health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), oral diseases are the most common and preventable NCDs that affect people throughout their lifetime, causing pain, discomfort, disfigurement and even death.

A major topic for discussion was WHO’s revised Programme Budget for 2020-2021, which Member States approved. Although the revised budget provided an increase across NCD-related budget lines, oral health was not included. The WHO Programme Budget 2020-2021 is the first of two budgets that will implement WHO’s five-year 13th General Programme of Work (GPW13). Earlier this year at the 144th WHO Executive Board, WHO presented a set of 42 indicators to measure its GPW13, which actually included two oral health indicators that focused on monitoring the prevalence of dental caries among 5- to 19-year-olds and edentulism among 65+ year-olds. Following consultations with Member States after EB144 in the lead up to WHA72, oral health was removed from the final list of GPW13 programmatic indicators. The budget now consists of 46 programmatic indicators, but there is the possibility to add additional indicators based on improved data, including oral health indicators. In response to this amendment, FDI delivered a statement at WHA72 urging WHO to re-integrate these two oral health indicators into the programme budget and called upon Member States to monitor and report on them.

During WHA72 a number of other key decisions relevant for oral health were adopted by Member States. An overview of these decisions will be made available in next edition of FDI’s Advocacy Update.

Read the statements