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WHO Collaborating Centre For Oral Health, Faculty Of Dentistry, University Of the Western Cape


University of the Western Cape,

Faculty of Dentistry, World Health Organisation Collaboration Centre for Oral Health


The WHO Collaborating Centre for Oral Health at the University of the Western Cape


Historical background

The WHO collaborating centres are institutions such as research institutes, parts of universities or academies, which are designated by the Director-General to carry out activities in support of the Organization's programmes. Currently there are over 800 WHO collaborating centres in 90 Member States working with WHO on areas such as nursing, occupational health, communicable diseases, nutrition, mental health, chronic diseases and health technologies.
The idea of using national institutions for international purposes dates back to the days of the League of Nations, when national laboratories were first designated as reference centres for the standardization of biological products. As soon as WHO was established, it appointed more reference centres, starting in 1947 with the World Influenza Centre in London for worldwide epidemiological surveillance.
As early as 1949, the Second World Health Assembly laid down the policy (which has been constantly followed since) that the Organization should not consider "the establishment, under its own auspices, of international research institutions" and the "research in the field of health is best advanced by assisting, coordinating and making use of the activities of existing institutions. All WHO collaborating centres, whether they deal with research of not, have been designated under that policy, which has undoubtedly enhanced national participation in the Organization's activities.


By definition, a WHO collaborating centre is an institution designated by the Director-General of WHO to form part of an inter-institutional collaborative network set up by WHO in support of its programme at the country, inter country, regional, interregional and global levels, as appropriate. In line with the WHO policy and strategy of technical cooperation, a WHO collaborating centre must also participate in the strengthening of country resources, in terms of information, services, research and training, in support of national health development.
A department or laboratory within an institution or a group of facilities for reference, research or training belonging to different institutions may be designated as a centre, one institution acting for them in relations with the Organization. Both institutions that show the capacity to fulfill a function or functions relevant to the Organization's programme and objectives, and institutions of high scientific and technical standing that have already attained international recognition may qualify for designation as WHO collaborating centres.
Designation is made with the agreement of the head of the establishment to which the institution is attached or with that of the director of the institution, if it is independent, and after consultation with the national government. An institution is designated initially for a term of four years; the designation may be renewed for the same or a shorter period.
Designation is independent of financial support being given to the institution by WHO. Grants may be made to any institution that is able to perform a specific task connected with WHO's programme but this has no relevance to the eligibility or ineligibility of that institution for designation.

Functions and role

The functions of the WHO collaborating centres are manifold, and may include the following:
a.   collection, collation and dissemination of information;
b. standardization of terminology and nomenclature, of technology, of diagnostic, therapeutic and prophylactic substances, and of methods and procedures;
c.  development and application of appropriate technology;
d. provision of reference substances and other services;
e. participation in collaborative research developed under the Organization's leadership, including the planning, conduct, monitoring and evaluation of research, as well as promotion of the application of the results of research;
f.   training, including research training; and
g. the coordination of activities carried out by several institutions on a given subject.
The WHO collaborating centres are an essential and cost-effective cooperation mechanism, which enables the Organization to fulfill its mandated activities and to harness resources far exceeding its own. Designation as a WHO collaborating centre provides institutions with enhanced visibility and recognition by national authorities, calling public attention to the health issues on which they work. It opens up improved opportunities for them to exchange information and develop technical cooperation with other institutions, in particular at international level, and to mobilize additional and sometimes important resources from funding partners.
The main role of the WHO CCs is to provide strategic support to the Organization to meet two main needs:
1.Implementing WHO's mandated work and programme objectives
2.Developing and strengthening institutional capacity in countries and regions.

Management and Evaluation

The management of collaboration with a centre is the responsibility primarily of the technical programme that initiates the designation process. Interaction between technical units in regions and headquarters ensures that the centre's collaboration is available to the whole Organization. In each WHO regional office, as at headquarters, focal points are designated to manage and coordinate statutory information and procedures on WHO collaborating centres.
Successful collaboration requires that particular attention be paid to the joint preparation of the centre's terms of reference and work plans. This should involve the institution, the regional office and the technical unit concerned in headquarters. The work plan should comprise clearly defined objectives and expected results, explicitly related to WHO's activities as set out in its programme budget.
The programme manager concerned bears the main technical responsibility for evaluation of the work performed by a WHO collaborating centre, assisted as necessary by the global and regional advisory committees on health research and by outside health consultants such as members of expert panels, depending on the magnitude and complexity of the question concerned.
Monitoring takes place on a continuing basis and at the end of each year a WHO collaborating centre must submit a report on the implementation of activities with the concerned programme in WHO. This report should reflect progress achieved in respect of the work plan, underlining possible difficulties and formulating suggestions for improvements for future course of cooperation. A final evaluation takes place at the end of the four-year designation period. It includes an assessment of WHO's support for, and actual use of, collaboration with the centre. No decision may be made on redesignation of any centre until completion of a thorough evaluation of its past performance and the continued relevance of this collaboration in view of WHO's evolving needs and policy.
To facilitate management, cooperation and networking, a global information system on all WHO collaborating centres has been developed, to be accessible worldwide to WHO staff, WHO collaborating centres, and eventually Member States and the public health community at large. Exchange of experience and collaboration between centres is supported by regular meetings at country and regional levels and on specific topics.

Networks of WHO Collaborating Centres

In January 2000, the Executive Board urged the Member States to make full use of WHO Collaborating Centres (WHOCCs) as sources of information, services and expertise, and to strengthen their own national capacity for training, research and collaboration for health development. At the same time, it encouraged WHOCCs to develop working relations with other centres and national institutions recognized by WHO, in particular by setting up or joining collaborative networks with WHO's support.
This has actually been the case of the WHOCCs in many areas, where networks have been created. For examples of Networks of Collaborating Centres, Please see the following links:

The WHO Collaborating Centre for Oral Health at the University of the Western Cape

The WHO Collaborating Centre for Oral Health at the University of the Western Cape was designated in 1994.  

WHO CC Committee Members
Director:   Emeritus Professor Sudeshni Naidoo: 

Members: Professor Neil Myburgh:               
                  Dr Saadika Khan:                           
                  Dr Razia Adam:                            
                  Professor Manogari Chetty:          
                  Dr Dirk Smit:                                  


TOR 1 To contribute to the WHO work by carrying out operational research to generate evidence for the relationship between oral diseases and other NCDs and to demonstrate the public health impact, cost-effectiveness and feasibility of interventions.
TOR 2 To support the WHO’s initiatives to increase emphasis on integrated prevention and treatment of oral diseases with NCDs and in the context of health professional training curricula at all levels.
TOR 3 To contribute to research and support WHOs initiatives related to the development, production, & distribution of affordable quality oral hygiene products (including low cost fluoride toothpastes), of quality
TOR 4 To support WHO’s work by ongoing research and surveillance on oral lesions of high morbidity and mortality like NOMA, Burkitt’s lymphoma and HIV.
TOR 5 With these terms of reference, the UWC WHO CC will provide expertise and specialised training to the WHO and countries in the African region to support development and implementation of national oral health epidemiological surveys upon request.

The current WHO Headquarters, Geneva ORAL HEALTH WORK PLAN PROPOSAL FOR 2017-2020 is as follows and the UWC Collaborating Centre is working towards assisting with these objectives:

2.1       Global Oral Health Status Reports & Policy Options
Objectives:  Develop and disseminate a comprehensive review of the global oral health situation and policy options ten years after the adoption of the 2007 ORH Resolution in the context of SDGs and in preparation of a global oral health action plan 2021-2030
Main activities
         Assess oral health conditions of populations, policies development and implementation
         Upgrade and identifying cost-effective interventions as well as best practices on oral health
         Development of fundraising proposals writing towards new donors and partners including Member States
         Convening regional and country consultations on the updated ORH situation analysis
2.2       Phase down use of dental amalgam as part of Minamata Convention on mercury
Objectives:  Build capacity and provide technical assistance to low incomes countries for early implementation of the phase down of dental amalgam use in line with Minamata Convention on mercury
Main activities
         Assessment of trade, regulation & use of dental amalgam & alternatives; documenting good practices and the feasibility of early implementation
         Updating of WHO document “Future Use of Materials for Dental Restorations”
         Research on adaptation of third-party payment  systems for dental care
         Capacity building in sound management of waste
         Revising curricula of dental professional education
         Raising public & dental professional awareness
2.3       Life-course approach & population-based strategies
Objectives:  Build capacity and provide technical assistance to regions and countries to support life-course approach and population-based strategies related to reducing sugar consumption, tobacco control and affordability of toothpaste and others vehicles of fluoride
Main activities
         Update WHO Technical Report Series “Fluorides and Oral Health”
         Organize two regional meetings on “Accelerating the implementation of the regional oral health strategy in African region 2016-25”
2.4       Mobile technology to contribute to better oral health
Objectives:  Develop and support the use of mobile technology to improve awareness and education against oral diseases and related NCD risk factors, and the capacity for early detection of oral diseases such as noma and cancer
Main activities
         awareness for increasing community awareness & access to oral health promotion, disease prevention, & primary care services
         training for increasing healthcare professional’s knowledge and skills in oral disease detection & treatment
         follow-up for increasing patient  follow-up  for treatment & screening
         mSurveillance for leading to the development of reporting & surveillance systems
2.5       Oral health information systems & integrated surveillance
Objective:  Reinforce oral health information systems and integrated surveillance through existing survey tools, e.g. WHO STEPS survey, NCD CCS, GSHS, GYTS etc.
Main activities
Ø  Updating of oral health indicators used in existing surveillance tools
Ø  Support countries in oral health surveillance including national oral health survey and implementation of NCD Steps survey and other existing integrated tools
Ø  Collection and analysis of oral health data available at country level
Ø  Develop oral health country profiles as part of the Global ORH report





 The World Health Organization.pdfThe World Health Organization.pdf

2016 WHA OHWC_resolution.pdf2016 WHA OHWC_resolution.pdf





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