Oral health

Planning conference for oral health in the African region, April 2004

Nairobi, Kenya, 15-16 April 2004 - Organized by the FDI World Dental Federation and co-sponsored by the WHO Oral Health Programme

Interview with chief of WHO Oral Health Programme

This is what Dr. Poul Erik Petersen had to say about the "Planning conference for oral health in the African region" that took in Nairobi, Kenya, 15-16 April 2004:

1. Were the aims of the conference met? If so, how? If not, why not?

The conference has contributed significantly to the process of raising awareness on oral disease burdens in Africa and how improved oral health may contribute to better general health and quality of life. Also the process of having countries formulate oral health policies has been initiated.

2. What are the outcomes of the conference that could have an impact on oral health in the African region?

The outcome of the conference was that key players such as health ministers, health care administrators and oral health care providers decided to work in support of the WHO Oral Health Programme policies (regional and global), it is now important that countries/national health authorities integrate oral health into existing national and community health programmes and policies. The WHO Global Oral Health Programme recommends countries to adopt the common risk factors approach and particular consider the platforms outlined in WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

3. What are the consequences of this impact at global level?

The experiences from Africa can possibly be used in other regions where developing countries and people of poor communities suffer similar problems.

4. Could you say something about the examples from countries and successful oral health development projects highlighted during the conference?

Some countries of Africa have achieved several goals on supporting introduction of oral disease prevention programmes and health promotion. The good results demonstrated should serve as guidelines for other countries that have not yet considered primary oral health care programmes. It is challenge for most countries in Africa to implement the Alma Ata PHC principles in relation to oral health as services are mostly oriented towards emergency care and pain relief for example by tooth extraction.

5. The conference declaration is called "A Commitment to Action". What do you see as next steps in order that "the action" highlighted in the conference declaration can take place?

Countries will benefit adopting the WHO principles for oral health promotion and oral disease prevention. Based on the experiences from the Nairobi conference, in WHO oral health we may better support national health authorities in building up an oral health infra structure, based on concrete integrated oral health policies and specific goals for oral health to be achieved by the year 2020.