FDI’s recap of the 74th World Health Assembly: Oral health, heath workforce and more

FDI was at the World Health Assembly to celebrate the adoption of the oral health resolution and to monitor other key topics that may impact the world of dentistry. Read to learn more.


Photo credit: United States Mission Geneva / Flickr

The 74th session of the World Health Assembly (WHA74) was held this year from 24 to 31 May 2021. As a non-state actor in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO), FDI World Dental Federation (FDI) advocated the inclusion of oral health and the role of oral health professionals in several agenda items including on noncommunicable disease (NCDs), antimicrobial resistance (AMR), women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health (WCAH), health workforce and public health emergencies.

While there was understandably a big focus on COVID-19, emergency response and preparedness, many Member States reiterated the importance of protecting essential health services and the health of our populations both in the short- and long-term, and as part of emergency preparedness. Investing in the health workforce and NCDs were also important topics of discussion with the adoption of new resolutions on Oral health, Diabetes and Health workforce, among other resolutions and decisions.

Throughout WHA74, FDI leveraged key messages from the Vision 2030 report as they were relevant to many agenda items. Below you will find our summary of key agenda items discussed during WHA74, and statements made by FDI and institutional partners.


Political declaration of the 3rd high-level meeting on NCD prevention and control, including Oral health

Several decisions and resolutions were adopted under this agenda item, including a resolution ‘Oral health’ (WHA74.5) led by Sri Lanka and co-sponsored by 40 Member States. This new resolution is a very ambitious action-oriented document asking WHO’s Director-General (DG) to develop a global strategy, action plan with 2030 targets, technical guidance, and NCD ‘best buys’ on oral health, together with the recommendation to consider noma as a neglected tropical disease.

FDI partnered with International Association for Dental Research (IADR), Smile Train, NCD Alliance, International Diabetes Federation (IDF), International Society of Nephrology (ISN), World Hearth Federation (WHF) and World Stroke Organization (WSO) to develop a joint statement on Oral health welcoming this resolution. The statement urged Member States to adopt the resolution bringing to their attention specific points that will strengthen its implementation, such as the need to address orofacial clefts as part of the oral health response and include interventions that facilitate access to affordable fluoridated toothpaste and systemic fluoridation where appropriate, as recommended by the updated DG report on Oral health.

Learn more about the resolution on Oral health & FDI’s statement
Access the resolution on Oral health


Moreover, the resolution ‘Reducing the burden of noncommunicable diseases through strengthening prevention and control of diabetes’ (WHA74.4) was also adopted at WHA74 inviting WHO’s DG to proposetargets for the prevention and management of both obesity and diabetes in 2022. The resolution does not emphasize the many complications that are associated with diabetes (including periodontal disease) and the importance for integrated care such as the role of oral hygiene and oral healthcare in the continuum of care for people living with diabetes.

FDI joined a statement led by IDF on diabetes, and will continue to work with partners to advocate optimal diabetes management to avoid complications like periodontitis, and raise awareness about the two-way relationship between diabetes and periodontal health as highlighted by the Member State delegate from Japan during their statement.

Read IDF’s statement on Diabetes
Access the resolution on Diabetes


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), patient safety and the Immunization Agenda 2030

In a break from tradition, some items were discussed as a group, meaning that we could only deliver one statement on these three topics. AMR, patient safety and immunization are highly relevant to the dental profession, and FDI put together a statement highlighting the role that dental teams have in these three areas.

Discussions at WHA74 were for reporting purposes on AMR, to consider the operational framework of the Immunization Agenda 2030, and to adopt the global patient safety action plan 2021–2030. FDI reiterated the need to engage dental teams in AMR efforts and antibiotic stewardship, the role that AMR and health worker safety have in ensuring patient safety, and also how dentists can support the outreach and rollout of immunization programmes (as seen with COVID-19 vaccination).

Read FDI’s statement on AMR, patient safety and immunization

Health workforce

The discussion on Health workforce revolved around the reporting on the five-year action plan for health employment and inclusive economic growth (2017-2021) and the new global strategic directions for nursing and midwifery. Moreover, Senegal and Ethiopia proposed the resolution ‘Protecting, safeguarding and investing in the health and care workforce’ (WHA74.14) calling for a new 2022-2030 health and care workforce agenda and implementation mechanism to be presented in 2022, among other key asks for Member States and WHO.

FDI, through the World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA), submitted a statement on Health workforcestressing the existing investment gap, the need to address real education and job needs, health workers’ safety for patient safety and decent working conditions to protect and retain the health workforce that delivers essential health services.


Read WHPA’s statement on Health workforce
Access the resolution on Health workforce


Committing to implementation of the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (WCAH)

This item focused on reporting progress made on several areas relating to WCAH, including on resolution WHA63.17 (Birth defects). FDI joined forces with IADR, Smile Train and NCD Alliance in a joint statement on maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) raising concerns about the limited progress reported on birth defects in the past 10 years and calling on Member States to recognize orofacial clefts as severe congenital anomalies. Furthermore, the statement highlighted the need for primary prevention during pregnancy and the importance of breastfeeding and pre-school oral health interventions to reduce the risk among young children of developing early childhood caries and other NCDs.

Read FDI’s statement on WCAH


Public health emergencies: preparedness and response

This was one of the most complex agenda items, as it encompassed three discussions on: (1) a technical update on the COVID-19 response; (2) the reports by the Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR), the Independent Oversight Advisory Committee (IOAC) for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme and the Review Committee on the functioning of the International Health Regulations (IHR); and (3) WHO’s work in health emergencies and strengthening preparedness for health emergencies and agenda item 18 (Mental health preparedness for and response to the COVID-19 pandemic).

The decision ‘Special session of the World Health Assembly to consider developing a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response’ (WHA74(16)) was adopted asking for a special WHA session from 29 November to 1 December 2021, to take place after the Member States Working Group to be established following the resolution ‘Strengthening WHO preparedness for and response to health emergencies’ (WHA74.7) assesses the benefits of developing a WHO legal instrument on pandemic preparedness and response.

On behalf of the World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA), FDI submitted a constituency statement under this agenda item with recommendations from the health workforce perspective to effectively respond to COVID-19 and ensure the protection of health workers and provision of essential health services as part of emergency preparedness efforts, following the IPPPR’s main report. In the lead up to the upcoming special WHA session, FDI will continue to advocate the protection of health workers, including oral health professionals, and emergency preparedness measures seeking to ensure that essential health services remain safe and undisrupted during potential future pandemics.

Read WHPA’s statement on COVID-19 and emergency preparedness

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