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Dental groups call for oral health emphasis in U.N. disease document

Washington—A 17-organization dental coalition urged the U.S. delegation to promote oral health in the U.N. General Assembly and the president of Tanzania said he would offer language calling on the international community “to address the challenge of oral health as a matter of priority.”

“We respectfully request our United Nations delegation to advance the recommendations of the Oral Health: Action Plan for Promotion and Integrated Disease Prevention report—adopted by the World Health Assembly (WHA) in 2007—by pursuing several changes to the current Zero Draft outcomes document of the U.N. General Assembly’s high-level meeting on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs),” said the dental coalition’s July 26 letter.

The WHA plan recognizes that oral diseases share common risk factors with NCDs. But the General Assembly draft document “contains no mention of oral diseases,” said the letter to Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. “It does not address the commitments made in the WHA’s Oral Health Action Plan and overlooks the commitments made to oral health in the:

  • “Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, adopted by the WHA in 2004, which associates oral diseases with unhealthy diets and identifies dental caries by name as a widespread cause of morbidity.
  • “Action Plan for the Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, adopted by the WHA in 2008, which identifies oral diseases as significant non-communicable conditions of public health importance. The Global Status Report, prepared in response to the Action Plan, identifies the early detection of oral cancer as a ‘best buy’ for treating and preventing non-communicable diseases.
  • “Brazzaville Declaration, which identifies oral diseases as particularly burdensome NCDs in the African region.”

The letter offers “suggested changes” to the Zero Draft outcomes document to indicate that oral diseases also contribute significantly to the global disease burden.

Endorsing the letter were the Academy of General Dentistry, American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Academy of Periodontology, American Association for Dental Research, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Association of Public Health Dentistry, American Association of Women Dentists, American Dental Association, American Dental Education Association, American Student Dental Association, Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors, Dental Trade Alliance, Hispanic Dental Association, International Association for Dental Research, Operation Smile and Special Care Dentistry Association.

Meanwhile, H.E. Jakaya M. Kikwete, president of the United Republic of Tanzania, will speak Sept. 19 at a New York University College of Dentistry symposium/reception for heads of state and ministers of health attending the U.N. global summit on non-communicable diseases. The event at the dental school’s Rosenthal Institute Conference Room is sponsored by the African nation’s permanent mission to the United Nations with the support of the World Health Organization. “The president is deeply concerned about the burden of oral diseases for Tanzania and other resource-constrained countries,” says a meeting notice.

President Kikwete will offer draft language for the U.N. summit “recognizing that diseases related to oral health pose a major health burden for many countries” and calling on the international community “to work on these common risk factors and common responses so as to address the challenge of oral health as a matter of priority.”