12th Congress of the European Association of Dental Public Health

20th- 22nd September 2007 in Ghent, Belgium

“Workforce Planning” and “Evidence-based Oral Public Health”

A report by Roos Leroy – Secretary EADPH

The main topics of the 12th Congress of the European Association of Dental Public Health, organised in Belgium from the 20th to the 22nd of September 2007, were “Workforce planning” and “Evidence-based Oral Public Health”.

During a pre-congress meeting, held in Ghent, the Belgian oral health situation was critically evaluated. The initiative of The Belgian National Insurance Institute (RIZIV/INAMI) – “to develop a data-recording system for the monitoring of oral health and its determinants in the Belgian population” – is encouraging. It should provide reliable, representative, and longitudinal information. 

On the other hand, more efforts are needed to improve the (oral) health situation of mentally and/or physically disabled, socially deprived, and vulnerable elderly.

Regarding the team concept in the medical profession, Belgium ranks after most Western European countries. Most general medical and dental practices are still ‘solo practices’ with one medical professional providing care without the adjunct of medically trained auxiliaries. The Belgian dentist can still only dream about dental hygienists.

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The main congress was held in the University Halls in Leuven; it was attended by 120 professionals from 15 European countries, Canada, Asia, South-America, and the USA. The team “Health Workforce Planning in a European Perspective” was elucidated by Prof Kenneth Eaton (University College London, UK). He discussed, among other things, the broader context in which such planning takes place, including the influences of history, social and cultural values, finance and European Union law regarding freedom of movement of individuals, and services. Dr Elpida Pavi (National School of Public Health, Greece) illustrated the oral health situation in Greece: an exploding number of dentists (many of them having studied abroad have returned to Greece to work as dentists) resulting in dentists’ unemployment or under-employment.

Prof Penti Alanen (Institute of Dentistry, University of Turku, Finland) discussed “What is evidence”. Evidence-based health care is very valuable, but it is necessary to combine evidence-based medicine with a conscious epistemological analysis of the nature of the evidence. By improving our understanding on what evidence is we can improve our ability to apply the results from scientifically valid studies in clinical work. The better we know what has been shown to be true, the better we are able to know how best to help our patients.

Prof Björn Söderfelt (Department of Oral Public Health, Malmö University, Sweden) talked about “What is evidence-based public health – really?” As it is not possible to construe health sciences with consensual theoretical definitions, they should be based on practice and practical experience. Three sets of practices were further discussed: sickness-oriented, patient-oriented, and social-oriented, with the aims of curing sickness, caring for the patient, and promoting health, respectively.

During the GABA lecture, Prof Cynthia Pine and Dr Girvan Burnside (WHO Collaborating Centre for Research in Oral Health of Deprived Communities, University of Liverpool, UK) presented data on the efficacy of school programmes for daily toothbrushing and weekly self-applied fluoride gel toothpaste in caries prevention.

In addition to the presentations of the keynote speakers, 48 posters were presented in four poster sessions.

On the social side, during the welcome reception in the Leuven Town Hall, the congress lunches, and the gala dinner, fine Belgian cuisine was a great aid in stimulating social contacts.