Central government must address water flouridation [sic] as matter of urgency, the health board says.
Nelson Marlborough District Health Board members questioned what could be done to get flouride added to Nelson’s water and how the matter could be progressed, at a meeting on Tuesday.
“We are not sitting back and just waiting, relying on central government changing the policy and taking action we are pushing and working on that front but we are also working with the local authorities here,” said chief executive Chris Fleming.
Health boards around the country should make their position on water fluoridation clear to encourage central government to address the issue, the board said.
The NMDHB confirmed its position on water fluoridation at its monthly meeting by adopting a formal statement.
It endorses community water fluoridation as an important public health measure to maintain good oral health, the prevention of tooth decay and the reduction of health inequalities.
The board’s position had been developed in recognition of other South Island district health board’s position statements and the Ministry of Health position on the issue, said general manager of strategy, planning and alliance support Andrew Lesperance.
The statement says that community water fluoridation is a safe, effective and affordable population-based strategy for the prevention of dental decay and supports the Ministry of Health’s position, recommending the fluoridation of drinking water supplies to the optimal level of 0.7 – 1.0 mg/L to provide further protection against dental decay.
NMDHB chief medical officer Nick Baker said it was important the community were outraged about the right things as fluoride was a solution to a serious problem.
“The thing to be outraged about is that 50 per cent of our kids have got a body part rotting by their fifth birthday,” said Dr Baker. “And we’ve got an older population of people keeping their teeth to maturity who actually are vulnerable to tooth decay so all the community will benefit.”
The NMDHB made submissions to the Nelson City Council’s Long Term Plan earlier this year urging the council to fluoridate the city’s water supply to improve the dental health of children and adults in the region.
At the time, Nelson mayor Rachel Reese urged government ministers to address the issue on a national basis.
Around 60 per cent of New Zealanders on reticulated water supplies receive fluoridated water, which amounted to 54 per cent of the total population according to information from the National Fluoridation Information Service Review in 2014.
The 2009 New Zealand Oral Health Survey found there were significant differences in decay rates between fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities, with 40 per cent less tooth decay in children within fluoridated areas.
During 2014, the rate of tooth decay amongst Nelson Marlborough five-year olds attending oral health services was 39 per cent. This figure was higher for Maori children at 54 per cent compared to 36 per cent for non-Maori children.