WHO World Health Assembly approves 'historic' resolution on oral health

WHA OH Resolution

The 74th session of the World Health Assembly (WHA74) is being held this year from 24 May to 1 June 2021. As a non-state actor in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO), FDI ensures oral health is included when ministers debate global health priorities, action plans and targets. 

World Health Assembly approves landmark resolution on oral health

On the fourth day of WHA74, Member States affirmed their united commitment to oral health by approving a WHO resolution on Oral health that was put forward in 2021 by Sri Lanka and other Member States at the WHO Executive Board meeting in January, effectively putting oral health back on the global health agenda.

The resolution recognizes the global burden of oral diseases and their associations with other conditions, urging Member States to address shared risk factors, enhance the professional capacity of oral health professionals to deliver consistent and quality care, and to include oral health in universal health coverage (UHC) benefit packages. It also asks WHO to develop a global strategy and action plan on oral health with 2030 targets, among other follow-up actions.

FDI delivers statement together with the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) in support of the resolution

Please see below for a full transcript of the statement FDI and IADR delivered in support of the resolution, with key points to strengthen its implementation. The statement garnered broad support from actors in the wider noncommunicable disease (NCD) community, including Smile Train, NCD Alliance, International Diabetes Federation, International Society of Nephrology, World Heart Federation and the World Stroke Organization:

FDI and IADR statement on Item 13.2 Political declaration of the third high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases – Oral health

(Documents A74/10 Rev.1 and EB148/2021/REC/1, report EB148/8 and resolution EB148.R1)

On behalf of FDI World Dental Federation, representing over 1 million dentists, and the International Association for Dental Research, representing over 10,000 researchers, supported by Smile Train, NCDA, IDF, ISN, WHF and WSO, we thank Sri Lanka for leading the resolution on Oral health.

Oral diseases affect almost half of the world’s population and are strongly associated with other NCDs. Optimal oral health for all will only be achieved if the response is integrated within the NCD and UHC agendas. We urge Member States to adopt the proposed resolution and strengthen its implementation by:

1. Addressing orofacial clefts, access to affordable fluoridated toothpaste, and community-based fluoridation where relevant, as advised by the updated DG’s report.

2. Promoting dental research to strengthen evidence on prevention, oral health disparities, oral disease associations with other NCDs such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, mental and neurological disorders, chronic respiratory diseases, and cancers; and research into full alternatives to dental amalgam, being affordable and accessible.

3. Meaningfully engaging people living with oral diseases, oral health professionals, national dental associations, and other civil society organizations in oral health programmes.

4. Ensuring that future processes, such as the proposed resolution on Diabetes and the upcoming 2023–2030 NCD implementation roadmap, integrate and align with the resolution on Oral health.

Member States must ensure that the proposed global oral health strategy, action plan, 2030 targets, and “best buys” aim to integrate oral health into national NCD strategies and health budgets, focusing on shared risk factors; including essential oral health services into UHC benefits packages; strengthening the oral health workforce through multidisciplinary care teams; and improving oral health surveillance.

To support this, FDI’s Vision 2030: Delivering Optimal Oral Health for All report provides several examples of national action on integrated oral health.

Download a copy of the statement here

What's next?

The new resolution asks WHO’s Director-General for the development of a global strategy, an action plan with 2030 targets and NCD “best buys” on oral health, technical guidance for the implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury and the provision of safe and uninterrupted oral healthcare, together with the recommendation to consider noma as a neglected tropical disease.

We encourage Member States and FDI’s network to participate in the expected 2021 consultation processes for the global strategy on oral health and WHO’s Global Oral Health Report to ensure inclusion of missing points in the resolution, such as the need to address orofacial clefts as part of the oral health response and to increase access to affordable fluoridated toothpaste and systemic fluoridation where appropriate.

FDI, together with its members and partners, will continue to monitor and engage in these upcoming developments in alignment with Vision 2030: Delivering Optimal Oral Health for All, a roadmap report that aims to provide comprehensive guidance for an inter-disciplinary response to oral diseases and inequalities over the next decade.