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World Oral Health Day: Working together

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World Oral Health Day (WOHD) is celebrated every year on 20th March. It is an international day to celebrate the benefits of a healthy mouth and to promote worldwide awareness of the issues around oral health and the importance of oral hygiene to looking after everyone old and young.

Ian Wilson talks about the importance of oral health internationally, regionally and locally on our doorstep.

 

When I walked in to my first overseas clinic in Togo West Africa in 1990, little did I realise the impact that that those two weeks volunteering would have on my life.

That first trip allowed me to see the significance of healthcare workers, charities and NGOs (non-governmental organization) working in collaboration with governments and ministries of health in developing nations. Since that time there have been an abundance of superb programs and operations into developing nations right across the globe, that celebrate dental and medical professionals working complimentary with national health strategies of those respective governments. The aim being to see the control and prevention of NCDs (Non Communicable Disease) of which oral health is integral.

Unfortunately, we still see the impact of Western health professionals who choose to work independently or with their own agenda with little thought of the impact that their actions make on the people that they are so well intentionally trying to serve.

It's not a surprise in that over the past few years the landscape for NGOs and charities to contribute to the prevention of NCDs and the oral health of communities impacted by poverty and deprivation has dramatically changed. I quote my colleagues from the FDI;

‘’The context of the international policy environment provides challenges and opportunities for better recognition, prioritization and integration of oral health. Linking to and using these opportunities may accelerate the process of stepping-up responses on all levels to the growing global burden of oral diseases.

NCDs are a growing global threat. Oral diseases are integral to prevention and control of NCDs. The global momentum for NCDs is a window of opportunity to improve oral health on a global scale.

This requires, among others:

•Continued advocacy for the integration of oral diseases into action plans for prevention and control of NCDs.

•Comprehensive inter-sectoral action and inter-professional collaboration to achieve improvements in health and oral’’ (FDI World Dental Federation, 2015)

We only have to look at the inhuman actions that contribute to the current refugee crisis to realise we have never seen this extent of human need before and surely we should ask the question. ‘What part can I play in easing the pain of even just one?’

No longer is the conversation just about communities overseas but actually it also now involves communities on our doorstep.

As we recognise World Oral Health Day let us reflect and celebrate the amazing work that dental professionals from the western dentistry have made over the past number of years. However, might we also explore new and innovative ways whereby health care personnel can look to connect, communicate and collaborate in such a manner that brings a huge amount of leverage with governments with a sharing of resources. Also, that the impact for the communities we look to serve with our skills and passion, whether it be internationally, regionally or locally on our doorstep could be so much more than what it has ever been; that sustainability would be commonplace and communities will benefit in being free from pain and having ownership of their own oral health strategy and its application.

Author Ian Wilson

Posted by Gemma

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