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By invitation of the IFPMA – International Federation of Pharmaceutical manufacturers and Associations, I had the pleasure of participating as speaker representing the World Health Professional Alliance (WHPA) at the United Nations – Economic and Social Council, ECOSOC “Innovation Fair”, on 7 July in Geneva. The Fair run parallel to the ECOSOC High-level Segment.
The theme was Education for Non Communicable Diseases. I’m sharing a part of my communication, provided by FDI – World Dental Federation Head office Geneva, to a selected audience, acknowledging in particular Eduardo Pisani, moderator and Director General of IFPMA.
FDI President-Elect – brief address to ECOSOC – 7 July 2011
Ladies and gentlemen
Thank you for inviting me to say a few words on behalf of the World Health Professions Alliance, representing the views of more than 26 million health professionals. These professionals play a significant role in reducing the global NCD burden through health promotion, disease prevention, patient care and rehabilitation.
One theme of this ECOSOC event is ‘Education for All’: we might equally say ‘health for all’. Health education or health literacy, as we call it, is so tightly related to education: whether it’s basic literacy, to read instructions on medications, or the ability to understand and use the information provided by the medical professional.
Health education will play an extremely important role as policy makers and professionals try to grapple with one of today’s major challenges: the global epidemic of noncommunicable diseases, or NCDs, as they are known. What we need is education, education for the professional, to communicate better, listen better, and education for the patient: how to interpret the advice of the health professional.
WHPA is currently involved in a project to develop and deliver some educational and communication tools to convey important messages to members of the general public on the subject.
Although social and environment factors play an important role in NCDs, our own behaviour can have a significant. The educational messages WHPA is developing are based on prevention: don’t smoke, or if you do, give up; limit your consumption of alcohol, eat healthy food, exercise and check your health from time to time with a health professional for danger signal.
These are easy messages, you may think, yet messages that encounter resistance not just from individuals but from the industries that promote and encourage, for example, smoking or unhealthy food. The important point we want to convey is personal responsibility for health through the choices we make and through our own behaviour. This will be a crucial factor in the fight against NCDs.
The other part of the WHPA campaign is to ensure that our views on preventing and managing noncommunicable diseases are heard by the major international institutions and reflected in the various declarations from international gatherings convened to discuss NCDs.
Our next target is the UN Summit convened in New York on 19 September. We have already provided input and we very much hope that our views translate into specific terminology that addresses our concerns in the Summit Declaration. What we recommended was:
- Adopting an holistic approach based on common risk factors;
- That due attention be paid to the social determinants of health;
- To widen the scope of NCDs and associated recommendations to include oral health and mental health
- Investment in the development and education of the healthcare workforce.
We also believe very much in the need to strengthen health care systems through a holistic health care system, with a focus on primary health care and strong link to prevention, specialized treatment and rehabilitation
I would like to close my remarks by quoting a colleague of mine who highlighted education in school as an effective vehicle to address noncommunicable diseases. Education on health in school reaches children at an age when they are still receptive about behaviour change and to acquire lifelong skills to enable them to lead healthy lives.
As a dentist, I would like also the role of oral health in the context of NCDs: the most common disease worldwide is tooth decay. It has large impact on societies, on children, on each an every one of us. Oral health also has significant co-factors with the other major NCDs. So, in educational programmes dedicated to the control and prevention of NCDs, let’s make sure we include oral diseases.