NYU College of Dentistry’s World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Quality-improvement, Evidence-based Dentistry hosted an event on oral health and universal health coverage on Sept. 20, leading up to the 2nd United Nations High-level Meeting on universal health coverage that was held on Sept. 21 in New York.
The event, a collaboration with The Lancet, focused on kick-starting the WHO Global Oral Health Action Plan, a commitment to strengthening and scaling up efforts to include oral health as part of universal health coverage.
The event’s key message: “Decisionmakers, governments, planners need to take oral health seriously in the context of universal coverage,” said Dr. Habib Benzian, co-director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Quality-improvement, Evidence-based Dentistry at NYU Dentistry.
Last year, the WHO released its first-ever Global Oral Health Status Report, which created a comprehensive picture of oral disease in countries around the world and drew attention to the significant global burden of oral diseases.
“Indeed, oral diseases are highly prevalent conditions—much more so than most people understand—affecting over 3.5 billion people worldwide, and especially those who live in resource poor or marginalized settings,” Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, said at the event.
Following the status report, the WHO adopted a Global Oral Health Action Plan with strong support from member states, which calls for 80% of the global population to have access to essential oral health care services by 2030. Currently, only an estimated 23% of the population has access to these services.
The event featured speakers from the WHO, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and ADA Health Policy Institute, who spoke about the need for more attention to oral health, the integration of oral health care and medicine, and advancing oral health policy on the global stage.
“Among all of the noncommunicable diseases, oral health is probably the one most lagging behind with an almost total lack of financial protection,” said Dr. Bente Mikkelsen, WHO Director of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health. “We are at a tipping point on the implementation of policy.”
In addition, representatives from several countries—including Israel, Tonga, Canada, India, and the U.S.—shared innovative approaches and policies to improve access to essential oral health care.
The event—which took place in person and online, with registrants from 78 countries—was supported by the Ministries of Health from Egypt, Israel, Malaysia, and Tonga, and by The Lancet. A recording of the event is available at the NYU Dentistry website.