The Thunder Bay District Health Unit today unveiled its newest website, thunderbayfluoride.ca, that will serve as both an information source and a venue for discussion around the issue of community water fluoridation.
Community water fluoridation (adding controlled amounts of fluoride to a drinking water supply) is regarded as one of the top ten public health achievements in the 20th century. Community water fluoridation has been proven to reduce dental decay by 20% to 40% and is the most cost-effective way of reaching a whole population with fluoride, regardless of social or economic status.
High dental decay rates in Thunder Bay that increase year after year prompted the Board of Health to make children’s dental health a priority.
“I am very concerned at the state of oral health in our community,” said Dr. Samuel Graham, Acting Medical Officer of Health. “Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children and is entirely preventable. However, it affects not only children, but people of all ages. Poor oral health is linked to poor overall health and it is a deep concern to me as a physician.”
One of the Board of Health’s recommendations made to City Council in 2007 to improve the situation was the implementation of community water fluoridation. As it awaits City Council’s decision on the issue, the Health Unit has been keeping Council informed on water fluoridation and recognized a need to share the same information with the citizens of Thunder Bay.
“There is a wealth of reliable information available about the benefits of community water fluoridation. The effectiveness and safety of water fluoridation has been researched for over 60 years,” said Janine Black, Director of Health Promotion.
“But, we know the average Thunder Bay citizen only has so much time to look into the issues and find the answers they need. The site is providing our citizens with easy-to-understand facts on community water fluoridation from credible sources, and links to many other reliable information sites.”
This site will also provide a forum for citizens to share their views with Health Unit staff and with other residents. The need for a forum was identified after a 2007 Health Unit survey that pointed to the fact that while 60% of survey participants supported community water fluoridation, many people were unaware that our water is not already fluoridated. Others were undecided on the issue, and a small number were opposed.
“We accept that those who are opposed have very strong beliefs and that they are not likely to change those beliefs regardless of what information we present,” said Black. “However, for those people who are unsure, we will provide answers to the most common questions about water fluoridation so they will be will be able to make up their minds about this important health issue for our community.”
Many national and international organizations also recognize this valuable health measure. The World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control, Health Canada, Canadian Dental Association, Canadian Medical Association, Ontario Public Health Association and many more promote its benefits. Several local organizations including the Thunder Bay Dental Association, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, George Jeffrey Children’s Centre, Dilico Anishinabek Family Care, and several others have also expressed their support of community water fluoridation.
The website will be promoted by billboards, newspaper advertisements, posters, and by postcards that will be widely distributed. Organizers hope that the result will be a steady stream of traffic to the site by people seeking information or looking for an opportunity to share their opinions. The goal of the project is to have an informed population who are in a better position to make up their own minds about this important health issue for our community.
“By informing the public in a factual manner about the numerous benefits of community water fluoridation, we are aiming to address this issue,” Black added.
All those interested are encouraged to visit the site at www.thunderbayfluoride.ca.