Dental Tribune International

World Health Assembly approves resolution addressing oral health

By Brendan Day, Dental Tribune International
June 11, 2021

GENEVA, Switzerland: The World Health Organization’s (WHO) management of the COVID-19 pandemic thus far has brought its fair share of criticism—including from many stakeholders in the dental industry. In some welcome news, the 74th session of WHO’s World Health Assembly has approved a resolution on oral health that asks WHO to, among other things, create a global strategy and an action plan for combating non-communicable oral diseases within the next two years.

The resolution was put forward by Sri Lanka, together with other WHO member states, at a WHO executive board meeting this past January. According to Dr Habib Benzian, associate director for global health and policy at the New York University WHO Collaborating Center, it marked the first time since 2007 that WHO had adopted a resolution focused on improving oral health.

In approving the resolution, World Health Assembly delegates have asked WHO to:

  • draft a global strategy for handling oral diseases that will be considered by WHO governing bodies by 2022;
  • translate the strategy into an action plan for oral health by 2023;
  • develop best-buy interventions for oral health; and
  • consider including noma, a rapidly progressing mouth and face infection that is nearly always fatal in child sufferers, in its roadmap for neglected tropical diseases.

According to WHO, the discussion that prefaced the resolution’s passing saw a clear consensus emerge “that oral health should be firmly embedded within the non-communicable disease agenda and that oral healthcare interventions should be included in universal health coverage programmes”.

Dental bodies sign off on resolution

FDI World Dental Federation, together with the International Association for Dental Research (IADR), was quick to deliver a statement in support of the assembly’s resolution. The two associations further encouraged the consideration of what they saw as “missing points” in the resolution, including the need for addressing orofacial clefts and for expansion of systematic water fluoridation where appropriate.

Dr Daniel Klemmedson, president of the American Dental Association, also expressed the association’s pleasure that WHO had recognised that “oral health is integral to systemic health around the world”.

“We look forward to being an active, collaborative stakeholder in striving to achieve the goals set forth by WHO’s World Health Assembly,” Klemmedson added.

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