Shaping 2020 targets for better oral health in Europe

  

As the EU moves forward on the joint action and other initiatives to promote health literacy, healthy lifestyles and the prevention of diseases, oral health should not be forgotten, say Karin Kadenbach and Kenneth Eaton.

Karin Kadenbach is an Austrian MEP (Socialists and Democrats) and member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food safety. Kenneth Eaton is chair of the Platform for Better Oral Health in Europe.

“Oral health is a burden that continues to challenge Europe. Less than a year ago, the State of Oral Health in Europe Report, commissioned by the Platform for Better Oral Health in Europe, estimated the current spending in dental treatment in the 27 EU member states to be about €79 billion in 2012, a figure set to reach €93 billion by the year 2020 if adequate action is not taken immediately. The implications are clear.

At a roundtable event held at the European Parliament on 5 March, we asked European policymakers to agree on 2020 targets for better oral health in Europe and to implement concrete actions to meet the targets as part of the joint action on chronic diseases, which will be launched in 2013 by the European Commission and member states.

With the outcome of the report last year, the Platform emphasised the urgency of the situation and the need for meaningful actions to increase disease prevention, address common risk factors with other chronic conditions and improve the state of oral health across Europe.

This is particularly true for Southern and Eastern European countries where significant disparities already exist and where access to affordable treatment grows more and more difficult.

The imperative now, as a follow-up from last year’s report, is to set measurable targets and to develop a system for the collection of high-quality oral health data in order to assess the impact of prevention initiatives, and to guide oral health policies and strategies at all levels of government.

To achieve this, we are calling on European policymakers to act and agree on 2020 targets for better oral health in Europe and to implement concrete actions to meet the targets as part of the joint-action on chronic diseases, which will be launched in 2013 by the European Commission and member states.

As the EU moves forward on the joint action and other initiatives to promote health literacy, healthy lifestyles and the prevention of diseases, oral health should not be forgotten.

More support for educational initiatives across Europe is needed to make citizens aware of common risk factors that oral diseases share with other chronic conditions and key messages for improving oral health.

A consistent Europe-wide policy for disease prevention through education, focusing on good oral hygiene routine being a fundamental part of general health and overall well-being, should be developed.

Education is the key ingredient for changing behaviour  towards prevention, including making better use of easy tools to take care of teeth, such as brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste; cutting down on sugary foods and drinks; supplementing brushing with sugar-free chewing gum when on the move; and visiting the dentist regularly.   

Equally important, is the collection of solid comparable data and the input and contributions of health professionals, policymakers and stakeholders at all levels. Over the course of 2013, professional associations and policymakers will be consulted, to refine and focus the targets.

On World Oral Health Day 2014, the Platform will publish the results of the consultation along with the agreed targets supported by key benchmarks and scorecards to improve the measurement of the state of oral health in all EU member states. 

The consultation is open to all interested individuals and organisations and we invite anyone willing to participate to share their views on the Platform’s website.

The announcement of proposed 2020 targets for better oral health is an important step that will help guide EU Institutions and member states towards achieving meaningful gains in oral health and increasing prevention of oral health diseases.

It is a project that the European Commission and member states must take forward together with members of the European Parliament and the Platform for Better Oral Health.

A common need should be met with a common response: promoting better oral health, tackling oral health inequalities and addressing common risk factors.

Stakeholders across Europe have the opportunity to help us make our proposed 2020 targets a reality, and to ensure that more Europeans take advantage of the simple, effective tools that can help them improve their oral health today. Together we can make this work.”

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