All three individuals asked to comment below are fluoridation proponents:
• Professor Barry Borman: 2012 response to Choi; 2015 study
• Matt Hobbs: 2020 study
• Professor Murray Thomson: Faculty of Dentistry, University of Otago; Comments in 2013 and in 2017;
Expert comment supplied by Science Media Centre
The SMC asked experts to comment on the Government amendment to a long-dormant bill to shift control of water fluoridation decisions from local authorities to the Director-General of Health
Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall says it will result in a nationally consistent approach that’s based on evidence
Professor Barry Borman, Director, Environmental Health Indicators NZ, Massey University
“It is about time. This should have been done years ago.
“Part of the issue is there’s been a lack of national leadership in this. It’s like a lot of things in health – the issue’s far too important for there not to be a national approach.
“We’ve seen the consequences of the delay in this legislation, with oral health the way that it is, particularly for children. Leaving nationally important issues in the hands of DHBs is just not working, and we’re seeing it’s detrimental to the health of many of the people who don’t really have a say in it.
“Anti-fluoridation advocates are going to be opposed to this. But nobody has really put up epidemiologically sound evidence to support their views. The health outcomes are the thing we need to be addressing in a consistent manner.”
Matt Hobbs, Senior Research Fellow (Adjunct), GeoHealth Laboratory, University of Canterbury
“Water fluoridation is a safe and effective way to improve oral health. The move to take a nationally consistent approach by Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall is important. Previously in New Zealand, we have had variation in water fluoridation depending on where you live. This is due to an absence of regulation at the national level.
“However, evidence shows that the presence of water fluoridation is related to, not only outcomes such as reduced dental decay, but also to other outcomes such as lower dental-related hospitalisations in children. Moreover, the benefit of water fluoridation is greatest for those living in the most deprived areas. As such, the biggest oral health gain to be made from this move is for those with the worst socioeconomic disadvantage. Water fluoridation can start to save some of our poorest children from hospitalisation.
“There is clear evidence that community water fluoridation continues to be an effective and safe upstream population-wide intervention consequently, the regulation and promotion of community water fluoridation at a national level is welcomed. This will be an important step forwards for improving the oral health of New Zealanders and reducing inequity in oral health outcomes.”
Professor Murray Thomson, Professor of Dental Epidemiology and Public Health, School of Dentistry, University of Otago, Dunedin
“I applaud the decision. Amending the draft Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill to enable the Director-General of Health to decide on whether to adjust the fluoride content of water supplies is a very sound public health move.
“Tooth decay is a lifelong disease which is the major contributor to poor oral health among New Zealanders: adults living in the most deprived neighbourhoods have four times as many untreated decayed teeth as those living in the least deprived areas, and considerably more M?ori than P?keh? suffer disruption to their day-to-day lives caused by poor oral health. It also continues down generations: parents with poor oral health are much more likely to have children who also suffer from it. Widening access to community water fluoridation will help to reduce such inequalities and ensure that Kiwis of all ages can enjoy the social benefits of being able to eat, smile and talk without pain or embarrassment.”