FDI calls for sustained action on oral health at the 152nd WHO Executive Board

FDI spotlights the draft global oral health action plan, the role of dentists in infection prevention and control, and the social determinants of oral health.

WHO world health organization

The 152nd Session of the World Health Organization's (WHO) Executive Board (EB152) took place from January 30 – February 7, 2023, at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Over the course of eight days, WHO Member States with support from the WHO Secretariat worked through an agenda including 47 items and sub-items, and approved over 30 Resolutions and Decisions.

There have been some momentous developments in the global oral health landscape since 2021 with the launch of FDI’s Vision 2030: Delivering Optimal Oral Health for All in January, which coincided Member States support for a game-changing resolution on Oral health at EB148. WHO Member States also approved a new global Oral Health Strategy in 2022 and translated it into a draft Global Oral Health Action Plan (2023-2030) released in January 2023.

To maximize the current momentum of oral health, FDI participated at EB152 in its capacity as a non-State actor and contributed to discussions on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), Universal Health Coverage (UHC), infection prevention and control, and social determinants of health.

“Universal health coverage cannot be universal without oral health” - FDI & IADR remind governments

As part of the preparations for the United Nations High-Level Meeting on UHC planned for September 2023, WHO Member States reviewed a report on progress towards UHC. While the document reports an increase in the number of essential health services covered in the UHC programs in countries, it also notes the increased prevalence of unmet healthcare needs and catastrophic health spending.

Building on the evidence provided in this report and the latest WHO Global Oral Health Status Report published in November 2022, FDI and the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) urged governments to prioritize oral diseases - the most prevalent conditions affecting humanity, in their UHC programmes.

Read FDI & IADR statement on UHC

Universal health coverage cannot be universal without oral health

FDI applauds the updated Appendix 3 (best buys) of the NCD Global Action Plan (2013-2030) 

Member States also reviewed an overview of the progress achieved in the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases and mental health. The report notes that the capacity of most health systems does not match the NCD-related needs of populations. Consequently, the UHC service coverage index specific for NCDs has not improved, and oral diseases, which are largely preventable, now affect half of the world’s population.

The report also includes the proposed updates to WHO’s menu of policy options and cost-effective interventions for prevention and control of major NCDs, also known as WHO best buys for NCDs or Appendix 3.

In a joint statement, FDI and IADR commended the decision to revise Appendix 3 and urged governments to implement a wide range of population wide NCD policies and services across prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and palliative care as a strategy to increase the UHC service coverage index for NCDs and contribute to existing global NCD targets and the new oral health targets.

Read FDI & IADR statement on NCDs


Health workforce training is at the core of the draft global strategy on infection prevention and control

In 2022, Member States requested WHO to develop a global strategy for infection prevention and control to support country efforts. Member States reviewed the draft global strategy at EB152, and it is noteworthy that it includes “in-service training” for all health and care workers as one of its strategic directions.

FDI promotes antibiotic stewardship among dentists and dental teams. Its Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Working Group provides guidance to the health workforce on addressing antimicrobial resistance, emphasizing the crucial role of knowledge and problem awareness. The Working Group released a white paper on the essential role of the dental team in reducing antibiotic resistance in 2020. They also curated a supporting online library of resources.

Through its statement on this item, FDI reaffirmed its commitment to infection prevention and control, commended the proposal to prioritize health workforce training and urged governments to leverage the expertise of dentists as they develop or revise their national plans in line with the new strategy.

Read FDI statement on the draft global strategy on infection prevention and control

Governments must do more to address the social determinants of health

Member States also reviewed the key findings of the draft WHO World Report on Social Determinants of Health Equity and a draft operational framework for monitoring progress. The draft report highlights three key barriers to health equity: economic inequality; structural discrimination; and the undue influence of the commercial determinants of health. It also reports that the world has not addressed the social and commercial determinants of health and health equity sufficiently.

To achieve health equity and the health-related Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 the draft report proposes global, regional, and national commitments that must be prioritized going forward.

FDI and IADR highlighted the links between persistent inaction on the social and commercial determinants of oral health and preventable death and disability linked to oral diseases. They urged governments to prioritize research on the common risk factors that cause oral diseases and NCDs and include them in the operational framework.

FDI & IADR statement on social determinants of health

What’s next?

EB152 approved the agenda for WHA76, which will take place from 21–30 May 2023, in Geneva, Switzerland. FDI will participate and urge governments to deliver on both new and existing commitments on oral diseases and NCDs.

Paragraph 39 of the draft Global Oral Health Action Plan (2023-2030) states that “Annually, WHO will report back to the World Health Assembly on progress and results of the Global Oral Health Action Plan as part of the consolidated report on NCDs, in accordance with paragraph 3(e) of decision WHA72(11). Every three years (starting in 2024), WHO will submit a comprehensive report on progress on implementing the Global Oral Health Action Plan, including collation of data on the core indicators and progress achieved towards the global targets.”

FDI urges National Dental Associations to partner and support governments of this important reporting activity and will partner with WHO to promote its importance through different platforms.

Progress on Noma expected in 2023

The landmark resolution on oral health adopted at the 74th World Health Assembly in 2021 recommends that noma should be considered in the WHO-led review process to determine additional diseases to include in the road map for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The formal process to include Noma in the World Health Organization’s NTDs list is underway. In January 2023, the Federal Ministry of Health of Nigeria, supported by 30 Member States from five WHO regions, submitted a dossier of the evidence that supports the adoption of noma as a NTD. The WHO’s Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Neglected Tropical Diseases will make a final decision later this year.