Concerns have been raised about oral health within South Canterbury’s Maori community with more debate about fluoridation encouraged.
Maori Health Advisory Committee (MHAC) chairwoman Raeleen de Joux spoke yesterday to the South Canterbury District Health Board (SCDHB) about issues raised in an earlier presentation on oral health.
That was made by Community and Public Health’s South Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Daniel Williams, to the advisory group last month.
Williams said tooth decay “is a serious problem in South Canterbury. It’s unfair, and it’s preventable”.
“Community water fluoridation is the most cost-effective way to reduce tooth decay, and it benefits everybody,” he said.
De Joux said the presentation highlighted the difference in oral health between Maori and non-Maori children.
“It showed there is definitely a disparity between the two groups, especially in the young.”
De Joux said MHAC members all agreed something had to be done and would work with local runaka to promote good oral health. “We all want something done about it.”e
A discussion will be held at the MHAC’s February meeting and the annual hui in March, where SCDHB members will be present.
De Joux questioned the SCDHB’s stand on fluoridation.
SCDHB chairman Murray Cleverley acknowledged that there was poor oral health “in some areas of the community.”
Cleverley said his understanding was that there had always been a strong anti-fluoride group in South Canterbury and referred to a past referendum being “clearly against it”.
Timaru mayor Damon Odey said the Timaru District Council did not have a policy “at the moment” on fluoridation.
“We haven’t discussed it in my time and it hasn’t come up.”
Odey believed that central Government should be making any decisions about fluoridation as it had the scientific information.
One Timaru woman passionate about the issue is Imelda Hitchcock, 88, who began her battle in 1980 against fluoridation.
“I haven’t stopped and won’t. There’s so much evidence out there and the American Dental Association has published facts that show swallowing fluoride doesn’t stop tooth decay.”