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Manufacturers of dental pharma products urge govt to finalize National Oral Health Policy

Laxmi Yadav, Mumbai
Monday, October 4, 2021, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Expressing concern over rising oral health problems in the country, manufacturers of dental pharma products have urged the Union health ministry to finalize draft National Oral Health Policy which will provide a framework for prevention of oral diseases and promotion of oral health.

National Oral Health Programme Division of ministry of health and family welfare on February 22, 2021 came out with draft National Oral Health Policy. The same was circulated for public comments.

The policy aims to strengthen oral healthcare delivery system at all levels to render promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative services. It aims to promote support for generating evidences, innovations, and implementation of oral health policy to control and reduce the risk factors and prevent oral diseases.

It also aims to encourage policy driven research, education, implementation and monitoring and build the capacity of service providers and also public health facilities for availability of skilled oral health care professionals and provision of essential oral health care services.

The objective of policy is to ensure integration of oral health in all policies in multi- sectional domains including national programmes under health, education, work and community related policies.

The policy also addresses the inequalities and disparities that affect those with the least resources to achieve optimal oral health. It aims to reduce the morbidity and mortality from dental and oro-facial diseases by 15 per cent by 2030.

Oral health problems are emerging as one of the main public health concerns in India. It is estimated that about 50 per cent of school children are suffering from dental caries and more than 90 per cent of the adult population is affected by periodontal diseases. Over the years, there has been increase in awareness on oral health but is limited largely to the urban population. The prescription based Indian dental market is roughly around Rs. 1,050 crore which allows for both, better penetration of the existing market as well as for expansion of oral healthcare facilities to regions that have remained unexplored.

“Oral health will be taken seriously and the outlook towards it will change only with changes in policy. With the launch of National Rural Health Mission in 2006 and National Health Mission in 2012 the access to dental services has improved due to the support given to the states. However, such provisions for improving oral health services have mostly been utilized in a limited way by some states only leading to overall lack of assured oral health care services both in rural and urban areas,” said Rohit Mehta, founder and managing director, ICPA Health Products Ltd, one of the leading Indian manufacturers in the oral healthcare segment.

Various studies have clearly identified that gap in perceiving the problems due to various oral health conditions by the population exist largely because of lack in awareness. This shows the lack of demand for oral health services in the population. In a nutshell, gaps are there both in demand and supply. Hence, Oral Health Policy is needed for improving entire spectrum of oral health from planning to implementation, said Mehta.

“Our National Health Policy needs to incorporate oral health as integral to overall health and create awareness and its importance through education,” he said.

Most developed countries have made a commitment to oral health and dentistry by formulating policies to improve the oral health of the population, particularly children. The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK includes indicators related to patients’ experiences of NHS dental services and access to NHS dental services. An oral health policy called the Affordable Care Act was formulated by American Dental Association, said Mehta.

“The government has the ultimate responsibility of the health of its citizens. India urgently needs an oral health policy. The country’s policy makers need to include oral health in public health policies. Like in developed and few developing countries, oral health deserves to be included in family health policies,” he said.

Mehta emphasized the need to launch preventive, curative, and educational oral health care programmes integrated into the existing system utilizing the existing health and educational infrastructure in the rural, urban, and deprived areas.

Besides this, he also advocated the need to create awareness among people about importance of oral health.

“Family, that is, parental attitudes toward the importance of oral hygiene, plays a major role in the preservation of healthy children’s teeth. Oral health education can be imparted to parents involving health workers, teachers in order to raise their awareness regarding importance of oral health. More studies focusing on parents’ attitude toward taking their children to dentists should be conducted,” he stated.

 

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