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Health bodies urge countries to adopt universal oral health coverage

In Thailand, oral health is a right and not a privilege, thanks to the country’s universal health coverage approach. (Image: MISTER DIN/Shutterstock)
Dental Tribune International

Dental Tribune International

Tue. 2. May 2023


BANGKOK, Thailand: FDI World Dental Federation and the NCD Alliance have urged governments to integrate oral healthcare into health coverage packages. The health bodies say that the success of universal health coverage in Thailand shows that providing preventive, routine and emergency oral care to populations is possible and will help to prevent oral and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

FDI said in a press release that oral health conditions and oral disease remain prevalent owing to barriers to quality affordable oral healthcare. Common oral health conditions and NCDs have the shared risk factors of sugar, tobacco and alcohol consumption, and it is therefore essential that governments include treatment for oral disease in health coverage packages, they said.

Thailand implemented a universal health coverage system in 2002 that combines three public health insurance schemes to provide unified coverage for at least 80% of its population. The broad range of oral healthcare services that are covered by the universal health coverage includes preventive care, treatment and rehabilitation services. The country’s multisectoral approach has evolved in the ensuing years to include oral health education programmes for schoolchildren and a tax on sugary drinks.

“Thailand is a prime example of a country that prioritises oral health as a public health issue,” FDI said, explaining that the country’s successful interventions demonstrate that it is possible to provide essential oral healthcare services to improve a population’s oral health and well-being. “Countries and policymakers worldwide should follow suit and prioritise oral healthcare as a fundamental right, not a privilege,” FDI emphasised.

The NCD Alliance pointed out in a press release that the Dental Association of Thailand (DAT) had provided guidance concerning the prevention of early dental caries and had advocated for government policies that “tackle upstream determinants of health”, such as those concerning smoking cessation and sugar consumption.

The organisation explained: “For tobacco control, smoking cessation practices have been incorporated into the core curriculum of all dental students in Thailand since 2019. The Thai Dentist Alliance against Tobacco collaborated with DAT and the ministry of public health on a programme to provide oral cancer screening to those at risk as part of the tobacco [control] programme. Since 2021, the programme was integrated into the national benefits package, which allows everyone above 40 years of age to be screened once a year.”

The NCD Alliance stressed that Thailand’s model of universal health coverage can be replicated in other countries.

Healthcare services Systemic health Thailand Universal Health Coverage

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