During the mid-1990s, with California’s dental decay rates for children and adults resisting decline compared to the majority of other states in the country, state public health officials sought solutions to reverse those statistics, forming the California Fluoridation Task Force (CFTF). The Task Force is comprised of the California Dental Association, The California Department of Health Services, the Dental Health Foundation, Delta Dental Plan of California, The Northern and Southern components of the Public Health Association, and the California Association of Dental Hygienists. Known as a public health achievement, community water fluoridation has shown to reduce dental decay rates in 2/3 of the United States, whereas California’s communities with optimal fluoridated water remained at 16 percent. With the assistance of major funding partners (see below), the CFTF’s mission is to assist, promote and educate local and state audiences about the benefits of increasing access to community water fluoridation in their area.

With many claims against water fluoridation swirling around local communities as well within statewide special interest groups via news stories, websites and word of mouth, the CFTF sought to implement a 2-year campaign consisting of grassroots organizing, education and outreach, along with public relations efforts to provide residents, local political figures and public health professionals with information about the CFTF’s mission.

Tactics to achieve objective included:

  • Grassroots networking, coalition building and presenting to local groups (e.g., Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce, medical and dental societies, School Districts, Faith community et al.)
  • Flier, petition, and collateral design and distribution and collection
  • Preparing scientific experts for speaking engagements
  • Public relations writing and media relations
  • Government Relations (arranging and participating meetings with government officials)
  • With the CFTF’s focus on helping communities fluoridate their water supplies through funding, education and outreach, the multi-agency collaborative has assisted in nearly doubling the population that receives fluoridated water – from 15 percent to 28 percent.
  •  The Task Force administrates funded grants from groups such as The California Endowment and the California Wellness Foundation, and has shown its ability to work with a number of variables involving governmental infrastructure, community grassroots organizing and public education.
  • Organizing community forums, public hearings, local lectures, group organizing through endorsement campaigns, letter writing, and petitioning, MGA successfully completed its assistance to cities including Santa Maria, Sacramento, Redding, Los Angeles, Ventura, Inglewood and Santa Monica in promoting water fluoridation, having raised the percentage of California’s 33 million residents population receiving water fluoridation to approximately 28 percent.

Time of PR Project:

October 2000 – October 2002 (Project continuing)

Location of Project:

The State of California; Project cities include:

• Santa Maria (City Council recently voted to fluoridate)
• Inglewood (building coalition and grassroots support)
• Ventura (building coalition and grassroots support)
• Redding (building coalition and grassroots support)
• Escondido (City Council voted to fluoridate)
• Santa Monica (City Council voted to fluoridate)
• Sacramento (Currently fluoridating)
• Watsonville (City Council voted to fluoridate)
• San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which oversees the East Bay Municipal Water District (Commission voted to fluoridate; the MWD serves more than 17 million customers in the southern California region)
• Los Angeles (Assisted in media relations positioning during campaign that resulted in positive City Council Vote prior to Project; continued positioning Currently Fluoridating)

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