Strengthening water fluoridation decisions

 Strengthening water fluoridation decisions

Proposed changes to Fluoridation Bill further ensures we are taking a safe, effective and affordable approach to improving children’s oral heath, Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall announced today.

“Tooth decay is one of the leading causes of preventable hospitalisations for children,” Dr Ayesha Verrall said.

“In its current form, the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill proposes decision-making on fluoridation to shift from local authorities, to District Health Boards (DHBs).

“The Government is proposing an amendment to see that decision-making sits with the Director-General of Health.

“The proposed change, which will be made by a Supplementary Order Paper, simplifies the decision making and means we are taking a nationally consistent approach that’s based on evidence. 

“Around 6,500 children under the age of nine were admitted to hospital for tooth decay and associated infections in 2019.

“The Fluoridation Bill as a whole recognises water fluoridation is a health-related issue. Right now only around 2.3 million New Zealanders have access to fluoridated drinking water.

“Community water fluoridation is a proven public health measure that will make a big difference to children’s wellbeing.

“The current level of fluoride found naturally in our water supplies is not enough to prevent tooth decay.

“’Topping up’ fluoride levels allows the well-established health benefits to reach all New Zealanders, especially our children, Māori and Pacific populations and people in our poorer communities. 

“The Bill was introduced into the House in 2016. Given that fluoridating our drinking water is widely recognised as the single-most important initiative to improve oral health, I expect this Bill to pass this year.

“Local Councils are responsible for the capital and operational costs of fluoridation. There will be funding available to support local councils with fluoridation related infrastructure work,” Dr Ayesha Verrall said.

Notes:

The World Health Organization recommends boosting fluoride to optimum levels and community water fluoridation as the best method to do this.

In 2016, the Ministry commissioned an independent report Review of the Benefits and Costs of Community Water Fluoridation in New Zealand. The findings suggest that for people living in areas with fluoridated drinking-water there is a:

­   40 percent lower lifetime incidence of tooth decay among children and adolescents

­   48 percent reduction in hospital admissions for the treatment of tooth decay among children aged 0-4 years

­   21 percent reduction in tooth decay among adults aged 18–44 years

­   30 percent reduction in tooth decay among adults aged 45 years and over.

Media contact: Ranjani Ponnuchetty 027 575 0542

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