A PUBLIC announcement is shortly expected on the result of a telephone survey on fluoridating water supplies.
The survey has been completed and the results are expected in 10 to 14 days, Health Minister Eddie Teare told Tuesday’s Tynwald.
It will be ‘interesting to see the final outcome’, he said, adding that he felt confident the outcome received would be ‘a true reflection of views of the Isle of Man’.
Up to 1,000 people were surveyed and it is understood the poll conducted by GfK/NOP, was designed to obtain opinions of a cross-section of the population.
Public health officials are convinced fluoridation is the most cost-effective way of tackling alarmingly high rates of dental decay among the Island’s children. But the anti-fluoride lobby has accused them of ‘state-sponsored propaganda’ and insist fluoride is unsafe and far from cost-effective.
Both the fairness of the telephone polling methods and the fairness of the questions themselves were questioned by Tynwald members.
Health and Social Security Minister Eddie Teare in response to David Callister MLC’s request for the details of the questions, explained questions were formulated by GfK/NOP, without any input from anyone else.
He also responded that the survey was confidential with no names or addresses required.
Mr Callister asked why in calls to three residents, once it was established they were not under 35 years, the conversation came to an end.
The exercise was designed to gain opinions of a range of ages, said Mr Teare.
David Quirk (Onchan) asked what value the minister intended to place on the survey and whether there had been complaints over it.
The minister said there had been ‘very few complaints’ and that the value placed upon it was that he would be guided by the views.
Clare Christian MLC suggested calls targeting under-35s would have been to obtain a cross-section of that age group. Mr Teare added it showed the callers were ‘up front about age’ before ending the call.
Quintin Gill (Rushen) claimed that the public health directorate had had an input into the survey and said it was ‘very disingenuous to say “nothing to do with us”‘.
Mr Teare refuted this. He admitted that to have any input into the questions could result in them being deemed leading.
‘We did go back to the company undertaking exercise for us and they prepared the questions. I can only assume that the member is scared of the outcome of the survey,’ he said.
Peter Karran (LibVan, Onchan) also suggested that questions should be balanced and neutral and claimed it was an insult to Tynwald to claim the DHSS had nothing to do with devising the questions.
Survey results are expected in 10-14 days, after which a report will go to the Council of Ministers and the health minister will make a public announcement.
Mr Teare said it was inappropriate to comment on two tabled questions relating to his department’s published leaflet on water fluoridation after it had been referred by a third party to the police, who was now seeking the attorney general’s advice.
Anti-fluoride campaigner Graham Joughin, of Glen Elfin Road, Ramsey, wrote to Chief Constable Mike Langdon last month formally requesting the arrest of public health officials Dr Paul Emerson and Dr Parameswaran Kishore for allegedly breaching the 2003 Medicines Advertising Act in connection with the leaflet on water fluoridation distributed to homes by the DHSS.
Deputy Chief Constable Gary Roberts told the Manx Independent that the letter has been passed to the attorney general’s chambers ‘as a matter of routine’ for advice on whether there was any offence in law to investigate.
Quintin Gill (Rushen) quizzed the health minister, that following his earlier admission that the state of the children’s teeth in the Island was ‘disgraceful’, what measures, other than fluoridation of drinking supplies, his department intended to take to counter this ‘indictment’ on his department.
Mr Gill said a 1993 survey showed the Island had the best standards of teeth and ‘now we have the worst’.
Mr Teare denied his admission was an ‘indictment’ on the department and said steps to better the state of children’s teeth had involved improved access to NHS dentists and dental packs for three month old babies.