DHBs to decide on adding fluoride
The Government has moved to transfer the decision-making power over fluoridation of regional water supplies to district health boards.
New legislation has been put before Parliament to remove the authority from district councils, which could come under intense pressure from opposition groups against fluoridation.
It was a health issue, and so was best decided by DHBs, said Health Minister Jonathan Coleman.
Onehunga and Huia Village are the only Auckland metropolitan areas where fluoride is not added to drinking water.
If the legislation was to pass, it would mean the decision would be left up to Auckland District Health Board.
However, a spokesperson for the DHB said it was too early to comment whether or not Onehunga and Huia Village’s water supply would have fluoride added.
Coleman and Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced the legislation on November 17, saying New Zealand had high rates of preventable tooth decay.
‘‘Increasing access to fluoridated water will improve oral health and mean fewer costly trips to the dentist,’’ said Coleman.
‘‘We know that children have up to 40 per cent less tooth decay in fluoridated areas compared to areas without fluoride.
‘‘This change would benefit over 1.4 million New Zealanders who live in areas where networked community water supplies are not currently fluoridated.’’
Dunne said DHBs had access to the best data, to make a more informed decision.
‘‘Recognition that fluoridating water is the single-most important initiative to improve dental health, particularly child dental health, is long overdue and I’m sure this move will be welcomed by the wider community,’’ he said.
Recent Ministry of Health figures show the rate of hospitalisation for dental caries, or basic tooth decay, in under 19-year-olds had increased 13 per cent over the six years to June 30, 2014.
The legislation would be open for submissions once it reached select committee. Once passed, DHBs would have the power to make decisions from 2018.
DHBs could have the power to decide whether fluoride is added to water supplies if legislation is passed.