Live.Learn.Laugh.: A Unique Global Public-Private Partnership to Improve Oral Health


The Live.Learn.Laugh. (LLL) partnership between the FDI World Dental Federation and Unilever Oral Care has been in effect since 2004. In September 2009, a symposium was held to report the initial results of an independent evaluation of the partnership activities at the FDI World Dental Congress in Singapore. I had the privilege of moderating that event, an occasion to review the purpose of this major investment resulting in nearly 40 separate health promotion initiatives in 37 different countries across the globe. The explicit goal was ‘to enable people to live healthier lives by promoting optimal oral and general health for all’.

The papers that follow in this IDJ supplement focus on the broad lessons to be drawn from a range of global public-private partnerships; a detailed exploration of the independent evaluation conducted into this unique partnership in oral health promotion and the resulting trends in the data. The external team of evaluators from the University of Salford in the United Kingdom was led by Professor Cynthia Pine, Pro-Vice Chancellor International and Executive Dean of Health and Social Care. Cynthia is Professor of Public Health in the faculty and the Consultant in Dental Public Health at Salford National Health Service Primary Care Trust, England. As Honorary Professor at the University of Liverpool, Cynthia is the Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research on Oral Health in Deprived Communities. Her personal research has been focused on the development and evaluation of community-based programmes to prevent childhood dental caries. Her colleague, Professor Lindsey Dugdill, is a member of the faculty and heads the Centre for Social Justice Research. Her area of research focuses on health behaviours within families and innovative strategies to enhance those behaviours. Her recently published textbook, Physical Activity and Health Promotion: Evidence-Based Approaches to Practice, attests to the approach that she brought to this assessment of the Live.Learn.Laugh. projects. Looking for scientific evidence underlying the goals and strategies used to effect better health in each project was sought as well the metrics used to indicate health outcomes.

To set the tone for understanding the contextual setting for the partnership itself, Dr. Kent Buse’s paper addresses the criteria, as he sees effective Public-Private Partnerships from a global perspective. His own experience spans a wide variety of major global partnerships: the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria; the GAVI Alliance; the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health; the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition; and the Health Metrics Network. Kent Buse, a political economist, is Senior Strategy and Policy Adviser to the Executive Director of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, Geneva, Switzerland. Kent has published a number of books, including the highly acclaimed Making Health Policy, as well as numerous scholarly articles, including those on public-private partnership. Kent provides additional perspectives on how public-private partnerships can serve the ultimate mission of this particular global outreach programme to achieve better oral health for the people it touches. In the paper included here, Kent Buse with his co-author, Sonja Tanaka, also of UNAIDS, are drawing specific lessons learned from models of partnerships targeted to communicable diseases that were formed during better economic times; to the current situation of partnerships increasingly being crafted to address non-communicable diseases in times and in places of resource scarcity. The analysis presented in the papers by Pine and Dugdill has identified that the first phase of this unique global partnership has been successful in making major progress towards achieving its goals. It is evident that lessons learned can ensure that the next phase of the partnership has significant potential to contribute to improving oral health globally. Viewing Live.Learn.Laugh. as a partnership between the World Dental Federation and Unilever Oral Care and set within the architecture of other Public-Private Partnerships for health has helped to re-frame and refine the LLL initiative toward enhanced performance in future years.

Conflict of interest and sources of funding

Lois Cohen has no conflict of interests to declare.