Formally adopted on 23 September in New York, the UN Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), which recognises that health plays a pivotal role in social and economic development, as well the protection of human rights, includes what FDI World Dental Federation (FDI) calls a “long overdue commitment to strengthening oral health” in health systems around the world.
Point 34 in the UHC specifically mentions the need to “strengthen efforts to address eye health conditions and oral health”, a commitment which has drawn praise from FDI President Dr Gerhard Seeberger.
“”Oral health is one of the most neglected areas of global health, so we applaud world leaders for this breakthrough commitment that gives teeth to the UN Political Declaration. It is now vital that the Declaration be converted into concrete, sustainable action at the national level.”
Despite the close link between oral health and general health, the FDI statement observes that “poor oral health continues to be a silent epidemic afflicting some 3.58 billion people – more than half the world’s population.”
Further it notes that oral diseases such as dental caries, gum disease and oral cancer “are the most common forms of preventable noncommunicable diseases”, the prevention of which would save many people around the world from lives blighted by pain, discomfort and disfigurement.
Tackling the harmful use of alcohol and tobacco and over-consumption of sugar is also an important priority notes FDI, something that is borne out by Australia’s Oral Health Tracker which documents not only the prevalence of chronic oral conditions like dental caries in Australia but the role particularly sugar consumption plays in people’s poor oral health.
The task of tackling poor oral health around the world might seem daunting, with the FDI statement observing “that the number of people with untreated oral diseases has increased by 38% since 1990” but Dr Benoit Varenne, Dental Officer in the NCD Department at the World Health Organization, believes the UHC is a very positive step forward.
“UHC provides a unique opportunity to improve access to essential oral health services and address substantial out-of-pocket expenses associated with oral healthcare in many countries. The integration of essential oral health services into UHC will help improve health outcomes and reduce fundamental inequalities in access to care.”