Member States agreed to adopt a global strategy on oral health, which will inform the development of a new global action plan, including a framework for tracking progress with targets to be achieved by 2030.
Oral diseases are among the most common noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) worldwide. While largely preventable, there were estimated to be more than 3.5 billion cases of oral diseases and other oral conditions globally in 2019. Oral health varies over the life course from early life to old age, is integral to general health and supports individuals in participating in society and achieving their potential.
The global strategy sets the bold vision of universal health coverage (UHC) for oral health, reaching all individuals and communities by 2030. This enables people to enjoy the highest attainable state of oral health and live healthy and productive lives, including by tackling social and commercial determinants and risk factors of oral diseases and conditions.
The global strategy is the first concrete step towards the full implementation of last year’s WHA74.5 resolution on oral health. With actions for WHO Member States, international partners, civil society and the private sector, the strategy sets four overarching goals to guide Member States, to:
- develop ambitious national responses to promote oral health
- reduce oral diseases, other oral conditions and oral health inequalities
- strengthen efforts to address oral diseases and conditions as part of UHC
- consider the development of targets and indicators, based on national and subnational contexts, building on WHO guidance, to prioritize efforts and assess the progress made by 2030
These goals will require following a set of guiding principles: taking a public health approach; integrating oral health with primary health care; and adopting innovative workforce models to respond to population needs. Placing people at the heart of oral health services is critical, including through tailored interventions across the lifecourse, and optimizing digital technologies.
In addition, the strategy includes six strategic objectives, on oral health governance, oral health promotion and oral disease prevention the health workforce, oral health care, oral health information systems, and oral health research agendas.
Milestones for the WHO Secretariat are also established. By 2023, WHO will translate the strategy into an action plan for public oral health. This will include a monitoring framework for tracking progress, with measurable targets to be achieved by 2030. By 2024, WHO will recommend cost-effective, evidence-based oral health interventions as part of the updated Appendix 3 (also known as the ‘best buys’) to the NCD Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs, and the WHO UHC Compendium.
WHO will also continue to update technical guidance to ensure safe and uninterrupted dental care. This includes scaling and sustaining innovative practices using digital technologies and supporting Member States’ effort to include Noma in a planned WHO review process to consider the classification of additional diseases within the road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021-30.
Work will also focus on strengthening oral health information systems. This includes creating a new oral health data platform, developing standardized data-gathering technologies and methods, and creating oral health indicators for population health surveys. Together, these action will monitor the progress of implementation of work on oral health, while also providing timely and relevant feedback to decision-makers at the national level.
“Oral health is a fundamental right. It is very concerning that despite burdening billions of people around the world, many oral diseases which could be prevented or treated with simple, evidence-based and cost-effective interventions. People continue to experience pain and suffering, alongside severe financial pressures on families and communities.
The impact of poor oral health around the world is enormous and action is urgently needed to benefit all, young and old, across the lifecourse” said Dr Bente Mikkelsen, Director for Noncommunicable Diseases, World Health Organization.