Dr Emile China represented the FDI Council at the Gabon Association of Odonto-Stomatologists and Maxillo-Facial Surgeons (ANOSGA-CMF) held its 2nd International Dental Congress in the nation’s capital, Libreville, on 27 and 28 March under the theme ‘at any age, a smile’.
The Congress took place under the high patronage of the Minister of Health of Gabon, Prof Fidèle Mengue Me Engouang, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Group of the French-speaking Dental Associations (GADEF). It brought together more than one hundred participants from 16 countries from Africa, Europe and the United States.
Among them were chief dental officers, national dental association representatives, oral health programme coordinators, dental professions, dental technicians, dental laboratory and industry representatives, as well as researchers and teachers. A special session on 29 March on the WHO Regional Action Plan Oral Health 2014-2020 for Africa brought together some 70 participants from ten countries, under the high patronage of the Minister of Health.
The congress comprised a total of six lectures and forty scientific communications from all areas of dentistry, oral pathology, prevention, control and promotion and public health.
Highlights of the three-day event included a lecture by GADEF President Prof Denis Bourgeois on ‘Biofilm’ and two lectures by Dr Benoit Varenne, adviser for oral health in the WHO regional office for Africa. One of his lectures looked at the challenges and implications for oral health in the worldwide initiative on non-communicable diseases.
Dr Varenne’s other lecture focused on the importance of integrating indicators and other instruments for strengthening NCD surveillance developed by WHO into the national health information systems of countries in the African region.
The subject of the special WHO/GADEF session, 29 March, was the WHO AFRO Regional Oral Health Action Plan for the prevention and control of oral diseases integrated with NCDs (2014-2020), derived from a series of regional consultations held over a period of three years. The Plan’s aim, as Dr Varenne pointed out in his introduction, is to facilitate implementation of innovative public health measures for the prevention and treatment of oral diseases and, more generally, to contribute to the reduction of NCDs and their common risk factors.
Present at the session, Dr Boureima Hama Sambo, WHO Resident Representative in Gabon called on the assembled oral health professionals to seize on the NCD initiative as a means of ensuring that oral health remains high on the health agendas of countries in the WHO African region. For his part, Prof Bourgeois noted the importance for WHO to take into account the FDI Strategy for Africa in its own regional plan.
There followed an exchange of views on the role of the various players in the plan’s implementation. Suggestions and comments took in a wide variety of issues from collaboration with and between major players (health and educations ministries, NGOs, etc.), health promotion, public-private partnerships, advocacy and political engagement to the determining role of NDAs and WHO in implementing national oral health programmes. These exchanges will now continue by email prior to final submission of the Plan to the WHO executive in Africa.
Case study: Côte d’Ivoire
An example of oral health integration at country level was provided by Dr Marie-Laure Tchéré, Chief Dental Officer at the Ministry of Health of Côte d’Ivoire. Following the recommendations from a meeting held in Ouidah (known as the Ouidah consensus) and regulated by Ministerial Decree, a minimum package of oral health services has been made available at Community Health Centres and private dental practices have opened within public health institutions. Awareness campaigns are also in place to warn the public about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol and excessive sugar consumption.
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