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Inclusion of Oral Health in Universal Health Coverage (UHC)

On September 23rd, the first United Nations High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) on UHC took place in New York City to secure political commitment from countries on UHC. In the political declaration of the UN HLM, the representatives of States and Governments committed to, “strengthen[ing] efforts to address eye health conditions and oral health, as well as rare diseases and neglected tropical diseases, as part of universal health coverage.” In the past, the importance of oral health has rarely been acknowledged, so this signifies a step in the right direction.

UHC logoOral diseases go unnoticed but affect billions of people around the world. The Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 estimates that more than half of the world’s population is burdened with untreated oral diseases, which can lead to pain, infection, tooth loss, and loss of productivity. According to an International and American Associations for Dental Research (IADR/AADR) report, the total global costs associated with oral diseases is approximately $442 billion per year. Oral diseases are the most common non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and periodontal (gum) disease is a risk factor for other prevalent NCDs, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

During the UN HLM, Mr. António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, highlighted that UHC is a significant achievement that will drive progress over the next decade on communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, while addressing NCDs through robust and resilient primary health care systems. As we progress towards UHC, oral health needs will finally be recognized and addressed by the global health community, so people will get the treatment they need.

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