THE New Year will see the end of the Department of Health and Social Security’s ‘objective, year-long information awareness campaign’ about the proposal to introduce fluoride into the public water supply.
2008 will see the consultation phase before the Health Minister.
Eddie Teare MHK will discuss with his Council of Ministers colleagues whether to support this policy or not.
For the record I should state that I am firmly opposed to such a measure which I regard as unnecessary and unethical.
I also recognise that others have a contrary view and welcome an opportunity for a full and open debate on such an important matter.
It is therefore sad that some within the Department of Health and Social Security seem to have lost their sense of perspective in this important area and issued a series of misleading and selectively chosen ‘facts’ to support their position.
For example hearing Pamela Crowe MLC and members for health repeatedly claim that young people regard mottled teeth caused by fluorosis as ‘fashionable’ might be amusing if it wasn’t so important and offensive.
Then to hear Minister Teare try to justify and defend such absurd comments in Tynwald makes me wonder just how serious the DHSS is when it comes to genuinely hearing objections or concerns.
The DHSS has also been reticent about how they will undertake next year’s consultation and not surprisingly they have declined to advise the public how they will measure the responses.
So it is hardly surprising that the DHSS is allowing the active promotion of fluoridation even during what they describe as an ‘objective year-long information awareness campaign’.
For the DHSS public health advisor in water fluoridation to encourage the public to ‘lobby MHKs to fluoridate water in the Isle of Man’ is blatant promotion of his view and at the same time is contrary to Minister Teare’s undertaking to ‘present the public with a range of balanced views based on facts’.
Again in Tynwald Minister Teare brushed off any suggestion that such clearly biased behaviour was inappropriate even claiming such behaviour ‘was not political’.
What! If urging the public the lobby their MHK is not political what is it?
So why does this matter to you? Maybe you are in favour of fluoridation maybe you are opposed to it; possibly you don’t feel suitably informed to reach a decision or frankly aren’t that bothered.
But the important principle here is the engagement between you and the rest of the Manx public and the Government.
That relationship is vitally important for everyone. During my service in Tynwald I have seen a trend towards a nanny state mentality where we — the Government, the professional officers, or elected members — believe we know what is good for you and we are not going to allow a small matter such as public opinion to deflect from the path of self-righteousness.
That is the really important issue at stake here and we must all ensure that a relationship based on genuine consideration of the public’s views and wishes are respected and reflected by our policy makers.