The WHO World Health Assembly established in 2007 a Resolution (WHA60.17) on oral health, which called upon countries to ensure that public health actions for disease prevention and health promotion are established. The objective of the present survey undertaken 10 years later (2017‐2018) was to measure the application of such programmes for key population age groups in low‐, middle‐ and high‐income countries.
Oral health focal points of ministries of health worldwide (n = 101) answered a structured questionnaire on existing national oral health systems and the actual public health activities. The response rate was 58.4%. The questionnaire was used to collect information about structural factors, country workforce, financial models, provision of preventive services and promotion for oral health, school health programmes, administration of fluoride, national oral health targets and oral health surveillance. The countries were classified by national income for analysis of data.
Coverage of population groups by primary oral health care and emergency care varied by national income. The gap between countries in delivery of preventive care was strong since low‐income countries less often reported preventive activities than middle‐income countries and particularly when compared to high‐income countries. School oral health programmes were less frequent in low‐income than other countries. Moreover, population methods of fluoridation and use of fluoridated toothpaste were unusual in low‐income countries. Health education, mass communication and community events were often essential elements in health promotion. In disease prevention, many countries considered the link between oral health and general health conditions and intervention towards shared risk factors of NCDs. The health concern for the consumption of tobacco, unhealthy diet and sugars was particularly emphasized by high‐income countries but less highlighted by low‐income countries. Finally, while national oral health targets for children and surveillance systems were frequently reported by countries, similar systems for adolescents, adults and older people were rare.
The inequities between countries in oral disease prevention and health promotion were substantial. Limited financial resources for preventive care and health promotion; inadequate workforce for oral health, and insufficient coverage in primary health care were observed in low‐resource countries. The results of the survey demonstrate the need for building effective oral health systems oriented towards oral disease prevention and health promotion.