A new Bill that gives District Health Boards (DHBs) the responsibility of managing the fluoridation of local government water supplies has had its first reading in Parliament. The Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill has been referred to the Health Select Committee for consideration, and the public will be invited to make submissions.
“Moving the decision-making process from councils to DHBs recognises that water fluoridation is a significant public health issue.
“Although New Zealand’s oral health has improved over the last 40 years, we still have high rates of preventable tooth decay”, says Associate Minister of Health, Hon Peter Dunne.
In 2014, more than 40 percent of all five year olds and more than 60 percent of Mori and Pacific five year olds already had tooth decay. These same children, and children in high deprivation areas, are also significantly less likely to be enrolled with primary care services at birth.
“That is why, when I assumed responsibility for the oral health portfolio in 2015, progress on fluoridation was at the top of my list. We know from international evidence and from our own experience that fluoridation is a safe and effective treatment that offers the most gain in improving oral health, particularly amongst children.
“Moving this responsibility to DHBs reflects the Government’s view that population health issues are best addressed through the elected DHBs, which ensures not only engagement of health professionals but also retains a degree of democratic community involvement”, Mr Dunne said.
Once the Bill is enacted, DHBs could start making decisions about community water fluoridation in 2018.Currently around 54 percent of public water supplies are fluoridated.
More information can be found on the Government’s website www.fluoridefacts.govt.nz, which provides comprehensive information and responses on community water fluoridation