In the run up to World Oral Health Day 2013, a high -level roundtable was organised on 5 March at the European Parliament in Brussels to discuss the future of European oral health policies. Around 40 representatives from the European Parliament, the European Commission, dental associations and dental public health experts attended the high-level roundtable hosted by Ms. Kadenbach MEP to discuss oral health and preventative policy priorities by 2020.
The report on the State of Oral Health in Europe commissioned by the Platform in 2012 estimated the annual spending in oral care in the EU-27 to be close to €79 billion in 2012, a figure set to reach €93 billion by the year 2020 if adequate action is not taken immediately. The report further highlighted that dental caries remain a problem for many groups in Europe and that trends in the prevalence of periodontal (gum) diseases and oral cancer are worrying. Furthermore, the evidence-base available to policymakers on oral health-related matters remains poor.
Based on these findings, the Platform launched its proposed 2020 targets aiming to propose a framework to shape efficient policies to improve oral health in Europe by 2020 across the following areas:
- Data collection systems;
- Prevention policies;
- Education and awareness.
Whilst presenting the targets, Professor Kenneth Eaton, Chair of the Platform for Better Oral Health in Europe, emphasized strongly the need for better oral health data collection as a first essential step to build efficient policies, taking the example of periodontal data not being collected in most European countries in a systematic way.
MEP Karin Kadenbach stated that it is equally important to focus on education to change behavioursand encourage good oral hygiene routines. She highlighted that European policymakers have an important role to play to implement concrete actions to encourage citizens to make better use of easy tools to take care of their teeth, such as brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing, a healthy balanced diet, supplementing brushing with sugar-free chewing gum when on the move and visiting the dentist regularly.
Mr. Martin Seychell, Deputy Director-General of DG SANCO, welcomed the targets as setting ambitious goals and challenging EU Member States to further improve their oral health policies. He emphasized the ambition of the European Commission to continue to adopt a holistic approach to prevent oral diseases and address major risk factors for oral diseases in an integrated way as part of existing European health policies, stating that there was a clear role to play for the EU. He identified three areas where dental public health stakeholders can help the European Institutions to further promote oral health by providing advice on how best to:
- Address the communication deficit;
- Develop the evidence-base and improve reporting on oral health at European level by working together to identify top priority European Community Health Indicators (ECHI);
- Integrate oral health in the European Joint Action on Chronic Diseases to identify best practices across Europe and develop common guidance and methods with EU Member States.
He concluded by re-stating that as people live longer, more focus is needed on preventing oral diseases amongst the elderly and on training care-givers.
Dr. Wolfgang Doneus, representing the Council of European Dentists, recalled the essential role that dentists play and engaged Platform participants to ensure that the targets proposed are not overly ambitious and are put in place in a sustainable manner. He further highlighted that the various shapes of oral care systems across Europe and cultural differences should be taken into consideration and that decision-makers needed to find a way to not overburden dental professionals with further requirements to report data.
The floor was then open to all participants to express their views.
Prof. Kenneth Eaton summed up the discussion and renewed the call to European policymakers, at all levels, and all those involved in dental health and public health to refine the targets. He concluded by calling on all EU-27 Member States to implement them as part of the European Joint Action on Chronic Diseases to be launched this year as a concrete way to make progress towards 2020.
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