Oral health

The objectives of the WHO Global Oral Health Programme (ORH)

Noncommunicable chronic diseases, which continue to dominate in lower-middle and upper income countries, are becoming increasingly prevalent in many of the poorest developing countries. They create a double burden on top of the infectious diseases that continue to afflict these countries.

The objectives of the WHO Global Oral Health Programme (ORH), one of the technical programmes within the Department of Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion (CHP), have been reoriented according to the new strategy of disease prevention and promotion of health. Greater emphasis is put on developing global policies in oral health promotion and oral disease prevention, coordinated more effectively with other priority programmes of CHP and other clusters and with external partners.

Several principles form the basis for the work carried out. The WHO Oral Health Programme works with building oral health policies towards effective control of risks to oral health, based on the common risk factors approach. The focus is on modifiable risk behaviours related to diet, nutrition, use of tobacco and excessive consumption of alcohol, and hygiene.

The Programme stimulates development and implementation of community-oriented demonstration projects for oral health promotion and prevention of oral diseases with focus on disadvantaged and poor population groups in developed and developing countries. Certain developing countries, countries with economies and health systems in transition, and industrialized, developed countries are targeted. Community empowerment strategies are applied according to the Primary Health Care concept.

The Programme supports countries and regions in their efforts ensuring healthy environments such as access to safe water and sanitation, and it is a priority issue to encourage national health authorities to implement effective fluoride programmes for prevention of dental caries. Such initiatives range from automatic fluoride administration (e.g. water or salt fluoridation) to programmes based on the use of affordable fluoridated toothpastes. Self-care practices in relation to oral hygiene are essential to promotion of oral health and the Oral Health Programme works for formulation of national and community policies on effective control of diet and nutrition risk factors for dental diseases, oral cancer, and cranio-facial development diseases. This work is carried out through the WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. In addition, the WHO Oral Health Programme focuses on tobacco use (smoking and smokeless tobacco) being risk factor to conditions such as oral cancer, oral mucosal lesions and periodontal disease.

Oral health is part of total health and essential to quality of life and WHO projects intend to translate the evidence into action programmes. The Oral Health Programme therefore gives priority to integration of oral health with general health programmes at community or national levels. The WHO Oral Health Programme works from the life-course perspective, currently community programmes for improved oral health of the elderly and of children is given high priority. The implementation of school oral health programmes within the framework of the WHO Health Promoting Schools Initiative is supported and guidelines are developed. Oral health systems reorientation towards prevention and health promotion is recommended in light of the Ottawa Charter, the primary health care concept and the Jakarta Declaration on leading Health Promotion into the 21st Century. In addition, global goals for oral health by the year 2020 are specified for development of quality of oral health systems. The Programme works for application of evidence-based strategies in oral health promotion, prevention and treatment of oral diseases worldwide, health systems research and development. Emphasis is also given on prevention and care of oral mucosal lesions, including oral cancer and oral manifestations of HIV/AIDS, cranio-facial disorders, trauma and injuries.

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