The World Health Organization (WHO) has redesignated the New York University College of Dentistry Department of Epidemiology & Health Promotion a WHO Collaborating Center for Quality Improvement and Evidence-Based Dentistry through December 2021. It is one of only 10 Collaborating Centers on oral health in the world and the only one in the Americas.
The WHO Director-General designates WHO Collaborating Centers as part of a network of centers worldwide that implement concrete activities at the national, regional, and global levels in support of the strategic plans specific to WHO areas of work.
The Collaborating Center, which had been led by Richard Niederman, DMD, since its creation in December 2016, now will be co-directed by Habib Benzian, DDS, MScDPH, PhD, and Eugenio Beltran, DMD, DrPH, MPH.
“The redesignation is testimony to our achievements and contributions to the WHO’s goals and objectives for oral health,” said Benzian, who also is a research professor at NYU Dentistry and a member of the Lancet Commission on Oral Health.
NYU Dentistry’s WHO Collaborating Center is committed to evidence-based dentistry, providing the framework for developing, monitoring, and disseminating novel approaches to oral health education, prevention, and disease control in the Americas and globally.
In 2019, the Collaborating Center hosted a United Nations side event in collaboration with The Lancet and the World Economic Forum after the publication of a two-paper series coauthored by Benzian calling for the “radical reform” of oral healthcare to prioritize prevention and integrate dentistry into primary care.
The Collaboration Center also has focused its attention on the impact of COVID-19 on oral health, publishing a paper on the need to better define what qualifies as “essential” oral healthcare during a pandemic and proposing definitions for “urgent” and “basic” oral healthcare that can safely and cost-effectively be delivered.
Also, the center has proposed Safer Aerosol-free Emergent Dentistry (SAFER) to reduce the potential risks of COVID-19 transmission in dental practices, based on its experience in managing the largest school-based oral health program and trial in the United States, with more than 25,000 participating students in New York and New Hampshire.
Further, Benzian was part of a small expert team invited by the WHO to develop a checklist for schools reopening during a pandemic designed to support policymakers, school staff, community leaders, and families.
“Our close relations with the Pan American Health Organization in Washington, DC, and the WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, allow us to support policy innovation to improve oral health in different ways,” said Beltran.
“We will use the unique role of NYU’s WHO Collaborating Center to build a vibrant forum for exchange to the benefit of students, faculty, and the wider oral health and public health communities,” Benzian said.
The NYU Dentistry WHO Collaborating Center for Quality Improvement and Evidence-based Dentistry is one of two WHO Collaborating Centers at New York University. The other, focused on gerontological nursing education, is led by the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.