Columbia Global Centers | Nairobi hosted the first ever regional Oral Health Summit that was held from 23 to 24 March 2016. The summit was hosted under a collaborative partnership between the Columbia University Medical Center, University of Nairobi, School of Dental Science and Unilever Africa, to address the topic; “Integration of Oral Health and Health”.
Over 50 oral health stakeholders from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania attended the summit with a view to identify challenges and gaps in oral health, service delivery, prevention and financing in order to develop a framework for addressing both preventive and restorative oral health in the region.
Dr. Belay Begashaw, the Director of the Nairobi Center, in his welcome remarks noted that; “This is a great opportunity for all the partners to get involved at the very beginning of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in particular, the third SDG on Universal Health. This will ensure that we make a case for the integration of oral health into mainstream health. We have to make our voices heard for this to happen.”
Echoing his remarks, Prof. Loice Gachece, Dean, University of Nairobi, School of Dental Sciences added that, “Our key focus will be to develop an oral health policy that will be adopted and implemented by the Ministry of Health. The policy will give direction on how to improve the oral health status of citizens”.
Dr. Kavita Ahluwalia from the college of Dental Medicine, Columbia University went on to welcome participants from the Uganda and Tanzania and noted that, “We have chosen to engage stakeholders from East African region because the three countries were the original members of the East African Community, and share common history, ethnicity and language, and co-operate both politically and economically.”
Dean Christian S. Stohler, Dean of the College of the School of Dental Medicine, Columbia University of Columbia expressed his excitement about Nairobi being the new hub for Research and Development. He went on to echo Dr. Belays sentiments that the time was ripe for the East African countries to discuss the gaps in Oral Health before it was too late, or it was forgotten making reference to the case of the United States of America.
“I call upon vital stakeholders today to consider joining this partnership as we seek to lay ground work for best practice and policy influence in oral health”, he added.
Data from the National Oral Health Survey 2015 shows that there are only 1,000 dentists in Kenya serving a population of 42 million people, which translates to a ratio of 1:42,000, which is way below the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation of 1:7,000 people. Moreover, a majority of dentists are based in urban areas leaving majority of Kenyans in the rural areas grossly underserved. These were some of the existing statistics that were shared by some participants to
Participants of the Oral Health Summit at the Nairobi Center
Following the two day consultative meeting, participants had the opportunity to:
- Come up with suitable policy recommendations to bridge the gaps identified in oral health and health.
- Contextualize the mainstreaming of SDG number 3 to ensure that health matters were both comprehensively and inclusively addressed.