'Alternative facts' and local cuts must not be barriers to fluoridation debate
1 August 2018
The BDA has slammed misleading comments from Hull councillors that appear to sound the death knell of England's latest fluoridation bid - and called on central government to step up and guarantee financial support to councils across England seeking to explore proposals.
Hull finance chief Councillor Phil Webster has said he would not accept the spending of "one more penny on this foolhardy scheme" and there was "no appetite for it whatsoever." Webster claimed it was "too expensive, undemocratic and unproven." Yorkshire Water is currently carrying out a £68,000 feasibility study.
Fluoridation has the greatest scope for savings of any oral health intervention, with Public Health England models suggesting a nearly £22 return on investment for every £1 spent after ten years. The Cochrane Review - a world renowned group that conducts systematic reviews of health-care interventions - has concluded that water fluoridation is effective at reducing levels of tooth decay among children. The introduction of water fluoridation has resulted in children having 35% fewer decayed, missing and filled baby teeth and 26% fewer decayed, missing and filled permanent teeth.
The proposals - which are backed by the BDA and former Health Secretary and Hull MP Alan Johnson - were unveiled more than three years ago. Tooth decay is the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children in England, with costs since 2012 of £165 million, around £36 million every year. A child in England has a tooth removed in hospital every 10 minutes.
With local public health budgets facing swingeing cuts to public health budgets, the BDA has said central government has a duty to support councils with costs of evaluation and consultation, who have to face off well-resourced and highly mobilised anti-fluoridation campaigners, that have helped derail previous bids in areas like Southampton.
The BDA supports a wide range of tried and tested public interventions - including early years programmes in nurseries and primary schools - and has lamented the fact central government has not put a penny of new money behind its signature Starting Well programme, which aims to improve oral health outcomes for high needs children in just 13 local authorities in England.
The BDA's Health and Science Chair Russ Ladwa said:
"The UK government's own models show fluoridation could shave millions off the bill for extracting kids' teeth in hospitals. Sadly cash-strapped councils have been given no support to even consider the single most cost-effective intervention.
"Councillors have a responsibility not to peddle myths or 'alternative facts'. Fluoridation is a proven method of reducing the huge burden of childhood decay. Yes, town hall accountants lack resources, but they must not use that as basis to misrepresent a clear scientific consensus.
"If Hull waves a white flag it will be a victory for the professional doom mongers, that will only discourage communities across England from exploring proposals that could save hundreds of thousands of children and adults from needless pain and distress."
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