Water fluoridation in New South Wales

Water fluoridation has been rated by the Centre for Disease Control as one of the Top 10 Public Health Achievements of the 20th century. Yass was the first town in New South Wales (NSW) to be fluoridated, in1956, and by the late 1980s, approximately 90 percent of the population had access to fluoridated water. In New South Wales (NSW) -- in contrast to metropolitan Sydney, where 100 percent of the population has access to fluoridated water -- only 59 percent of the population living outside Sydney has access to fluoridated water. Under the Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies Act 1957, the responsibility to implement fluoridation rests with local government authorities who manage water supplies. Adoption in currently non-fluoridated communities is hindered due to organized community opposition to water fluoridation. However, since 2003, NSW Health has developed a well-coordinated, strategic, multidisciplinary approach to water fluoridation, to tackle the determinants of health and to reduce the growing inequalities in oral health. In partnership with the Area Health Services, the Australian Dental Association, and Local Governments, these strategies have resulted in two Councils (Deniliquin and Moree) implementing fluoridation and 13 more Councils progressing toward implementation in NSW. By 2007, approximately a quarter million more rural NSW (another 3 percent of the NSW) residents will have access to fluoridated water. Another 7 Councils, with a population of 272, 212, are currently being actively targeted.

The innovative strategies used to mobilize communities include the role of partnerships and communications, community consultation, and participation and principles of social marketing. The fluoridation promotion strategies used in NSW are currently being evaluated by the Centre for Health Services Research, University of Sydney, and would be a useful resource document for future fluoridation projects in other rural areas in NSW, Australia, and internationally. Preliminary findings from this evaluation will be presented today at the 84th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research. Councillors were more likely to support water fluoridation if they were made aware of the poorer oral health in their community, if water fluoridation was framed as a public health issue, if there was strong and united support for fluoridation by the health professionals, and following the paths of most Councils in NSW.

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This is a summary of abstract #1193, "Reasons Councillors Voted For or Against Water Fluoridation," by L.T.T. Trinh, S. Sivaneswaran, G. Rubin, and M. Piza (University of Sydney, Sydney West Areas Health Services, New South Wales Health, Australia), to be presented at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 29, 2006, in Exhibit Hall 1 of the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, during the 84th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research.


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