• April 14, 2024
  • Last Update April 14, 2024 9:48 PM
  • Nairobi

Oral health remains neglected part of person centered health care

Oral health remains neglected part of person centered health care


Thursday, March 21, 2024

KNA by Wangari Ndirangu

Over 44 percent of Africa’s population is affected by oral diseases such as dental caries, gum diseases, and tooth loss, World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

According to the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, despite the innovative measures of experts, the region has had the largest increase in cases of major oral disease in the past 30 yearsIn her message during the commemoration of the World Oral Health Day observed on March 20, Dr. Moeti said most oral diseases were preventable through controlling common risk factors, like avoiding the use of tobacco and alcohol, adopting a healthy diet low in free sugar, and brushing teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day.

“The neglect of oral health is obvious also in the level of under-investment with half of the countries in the WHO African Region lacking oral health policies,” she said.In 2019, Dr. Moeti explained that over 70 percent of the countries of the region spent less than Sh130 (one USD) per person per year on treatment costs for oral health care.

The WHO Africa Regional Head further said there is a chronic deficit of the oral health workforce in the region giving an example of having only 0.33 dentists per 10,000 populations, a mere tenth of the global average.

Last year in December, WHO in conjunction with the Kenya Dental Association (KDA) launched an online course focused on oral health for Community Health Promoters (CHPs).

Dr. Moeti applauded the resilience of the over 5,800 healthcare and non-healthcare workers, as of 29 February 2024, who embraced the online course on oral health for community health workers.

She further acknowledged the support of the University of Nairobi (UON) and University of Pennsylvania in further bringing together more than 70 delegates from the academia and ministries of health to a meeting on “Evidence to policy: Accelerating the implementation of the regional and global strategies on oral health in the WHO African Region”.

“The delegates discussed a set of actionable recommendations to accelerate the creation, dissemination, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of evidence-informed oral health policies and programmes in the region in line with the WHO global and regional strategies on oral health,” Dr. Moeti said.

She further commended the work of the over 4,400 health professionals and community actors in 11 noma disease priority countries that leveraged the WHO noma online course to enhance their capacities for the promotion of oral health, detection, and control of early stages of noma and referring same in 2023.

Noma is a rapidly progressing severe gangrenous disease of the mouth and face that mostly affects children aged 2–6 years suffering from malnutrition, affected by infectious diseases, living in extreme poverty with poor oral health or with weakened immunity.

On 15 December, WHO officially recognized noma as one of the neglected tropical diseases following a collective action for health by 32 countries, with the trail-blazing leadership of Nigeria and 14 other African Countries that included Kenya as a major milestone in the noma control effort.

The first and only Kenya National Oral Health Survey 2015 reported high oral disease burden.

Notable was dental caries in children which was 40 percent, gum disease over 90 percent and dental fluorosis 41 percent while the adult population had over 98 percent gum disease and notable oral cancer and pre-cancerous lesions.

Kenya has a National Oral Health Policy (2022 – 2030) in place that is being implemented through 5-year National Oral Health strategic plans. The first National Oral Health Strategic plan 2022-2026 is already developed

This year’s 2024 World Oral Health Day, WHO is calling on multilateral and bilateral stakeholders, and the non-health sector and the private sector, to join hands with ministries of health in driving a multi-sectoral response to the region’s silent epidemic of oral diseases.

The Theme for Oral Health Day 2024 to 2026 is ‘A happy mouth is a happy body.’

Courtesy; KNA

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