World Health Organization Redesignates NYU Dentistry as WHO Collaborating Center for Quality Improvement and Evidence-based Dentistry

NYU Dentistry’s Department Epidemiology & Health Promotion has been redesignated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the WHO Collaborating Center for Quality Improvement and Evidence-based Dentistry through December 2024. It is one of only 10 Collaborating Centers on oral health in the world and the only one in the Americas. WHO Collaborating Centers are designated by the WHO Director-General 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.

Moving forward, the Collaborating Center—which had been led by Richard Niederman, DMD, since its creation in December 2016—will now be co-directed by Habib Benzian, DDS, MScDPH, PhD, and Eugenio Beltrán, DMD, DrPH, MPH. “The redesignation is testimony to our achievements and contributions to the WHO’s goals and objectives for oral health,” said Dr. Benzian who is also research professor at the College of Dentistry and 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, following the high-profile publication of a special Lancet Series on Oral Health. The two-paper series, co-authored by Dr. Benzian, called for the “radical reform” of oral healthcare to prioritize prevention and integrate dentistry into primary care.

More recently, the Collaborating Center has focused its attention on the impact of COVID-19 on oral health worldwide. In a paper published this month in the Journal of Dental Research, Drs. Benzian, Beltrán, Niederman, and Mathur (from the Public Health Foundation of India/Liverpool University) discuss the need to better define what qualifies as “essential” oral healthcare during a pandemic, and propose definitions for “urgent” and “basic” oral healthcare—both of which are essential—that can safely and cost-effectively be delivered, even in a public health emergency. Building on the experience of managing the largest school-based oral health program and trial in the U.S. with more than 25,000 participating students in New York and New Hampshire, the Collaborating Center proposed a concept of Safer Aerosol-free Emergent (SAFER) Dentistry to reduce potential risks of COVID-19 transmission in dental practice. In addition, Dr. 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 (PAHO) in Washington D.C. and the WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, allow us to support policy innovation to improve oral health in different ways,” said Dr. Beltrán, co-director of the Center.

“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,” added Dr. Benzian.

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 NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.