Oral Disease Added to United Nations Declaration on Noncommunicable Diseases

October 21, 2011

Following a coordinated advocacy campaign by FDI and its World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA) partners, oral diseases were officially included in a recent United Nations Declaration on Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs). The declaration arose from the UN General Assembly’s special high-level meeting focusing on NCDs, held in September in New York.

Article 19 of the UN declaration now recognizes that “renal, oral and eye diseases pose a major health burden for many countries and that these diseases share common risk factors and can benefit from common responses to non-communicable diseases.”

In the months leading up to the UN meetings, the WHPA outlined how NCDs could be more effectively addressed through a holistic approach that targets common risk factors and the social determinants of health. Presenting on behalf of the WHPA at UN headquarters in June, Dr. Jean-Luc Eiselé, FDI’s executive director, stressed how oral conditions like tooth decay, periodontal disease and oral cancer share common risk factors with NCDs, such as a poor diet with high sugar consumption, tobacco use and alcohol abuse.

The president of Tanzania, J. M. Kikwete, spearheaded the use of language that included “oral” in the UN declaration. He and his government hosted a side-event on oral health and NCDs held during the UN high-level meeting in New York. This event was co-sponsored by the Governments of Australia and Sweden with the support of the World Health Organization. Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand and current administrator for the United Nations Development Program, spoke at the event: “We need integrated approaches to disease prevention and health promotion which include tackling poverty, inequality, tobacco and alcohol…A focus on oral health in overall primary health care will not only help improve oral health itself, but will also reduce the rate of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes.”

The WHPA consists of FDI, the International Council of Nurses, the International Pharmaceutical Federation, the World Confederation for Physical Therapy and the World Medical Association. It represents more than 26 million health professionals in 130 countries.

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