EHS-COVID (425) Lancet: The WHO global strategy for oral health: an opportunity for bold action

25 June, 2021

'Oral health is a neglected issue on the global health agenda', says this new paper in The Lancet, and it could be said that oral health is underrepresented on HIFA too. Citation, extracts and a comment from me below.

The latest WHO Resolution notes: 'Concerned also that oral health services are among the most affected essential health services because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 77% of the countries reporting partial or complete disruption'

CITATION: The WHO global strategy for oral health: an opportunity for bold action

Habib Benzian et al.

Lancet 2021, 23 June


Oral health is a neglected issue on the global health agenda, so it was an important advance when a resolution on oral health was adopted at WHO's 2021 World Health Assembly. [Oral health. Executive Board Resolution WHA74/A74.R5.] The resolution calls for the development of a global oral health strategy by 2022 and action plan by 2023, including a monitoring framework aligned with non-communicable disease (NCD) and universal health coverage (UHC) agendas...

The core global health challenge is the large and unequal burden of preventable oral diseases. Case numbers of untreated oral diseases have more than doubled between 1990 and 2017 in low-income countries and increased by more than 50% globally. Achieving sustained and affordable access to essential oral health-care services and prevention for almost 3·5 billion people affected by untreated oral diseases4 requires impactful policy solutions and radical system reform...

Striving for greater equity across all dimensions of oral health, including reducing disease burden and risk exposure, expanding access to care and prevention, and improving empowerment and participation, must be foundational for the new oral health policy framework...

The introduction of global targets to measure progress towards 2023 and regular reporting mechanisms, similar to those for NCDs, will build and sustain the momentum for country action. The unmatched burden of oral diseases and the negative impacts of high sugar consumption on many NCDs should, ultimately, lead to recognition of oral diseases as the sixth NCD and of sugar as the sixth major common risk factor...


Comment (NPW): We would welcome more specialists in dentistry and oral health on HIFA. If you are, or know, an oral health professional, please reach out and invite colleagues to join: Also, what do we know about the links between access to reliable information on oral health, and oral disease? Do the general public and health workers have sufficient access to the information they need to prevent and manage oral health problems? Clearly, many people will be aware that sugar causes caries (and may choose to ignore it), although many may not.

Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator,