The Oregon Health Authority has staunchly maintained that there was nothing inappropriate about the fact that state officials managing a survey of kids’ oral health met with the architects of Portland’s pro-fluoride campaign in January.
Despite e-mails indicating a staffer had gone over details (though no specific data) of the report with Upstream Public Health well in advance of releasing it publicly, officials with the health authority have said repeatedly that “no specific details were discussed.”
Nevertheless, Bruce Goldberg, the authority’s director, has asked that the human resources department look into the matter. The move comes a week after Portlanders ultimately rejected a move to fluoridate the city’s water supply.
“There have been a couple of inquiries about our behavior in regard to the ballot initiative,” Goldberg said. “Human resources is looking into whether it’s appropriate or not.”
Goldberg couldn’t speak to the exact scope of the inquiry, but did say it would look at “all the program staff and anybody who has been involved in it.”
During the heat of the fluoride campaign, the Oregon Health Authority was working on a report that examined dental health among Oregon youth. The report was continually delayed, despite initial expectations that it would be released in February.
The Oregonian requested e-mails regarding the delay and found that while there didn’t appear to be any effort to delay the report, Upstream Health had access to information from the report well before anybody else did. That information also seemed to contradict the narrative of a “growing dental health crisis” in Oregon, the concept on which the pro-fluoride campaign was built.
According to the emails, Shanie Mason, the state’s oral health program manager, and Mel Kohn, the state health officer who recently announced he was resigning, met with the co-directors of Upstream Public Health.
Though there’s never any indication that the state changed the report for Upstream, Mason did, at one point, note that she was “getting a ton of pressure from advocates like Upstream Public Health that have very specific ideas about how we should present our information … Unfortunately for them I’m committed to maintaining the integrity of our work and we’ll be presenting our data in the way that we see most appropriate.”
Upstream, meanwhile, contends that they asked only for the report to include different regions, in particular a break out for Multnomah County.
As for when the review into the matter will be done, Goldberg said he wasn’t sure. He did say, in the event that human resources officials determined the behavior was inappropriate, they’d likely write a report on the matter. Whether it would be public he didn’t know.
“I think it’s going to depend on the nature of what they find,” he said.