Perhaps a more encouraging figure for health officials is only 10 percent of Kiwis outright deny there are any health benefits, with the rest falling into the ‘don’t know’ camp.
Nearly 3500 adult New Zealanders were asked about their knowledge of and attitudes towards oral health. Fifty-seven percent believed fluoridation of the water supply is good for our teeth, with European/Pakeha respondents, people with higher education, over-55s and those living in higher socio-economic areas more likely to back it.
Maori and Pacific Islanders had lower levels of belief in fluoridation’s effectiveness, but also less negativity towards it, with most admitting they didn’t know.
“The paper indicates that although benefits from community water fluoridation are expected by a large proportion of the population, there is a lack of health literacy about community water fluoridation,” says Dr Robin Whyman, clinical director of oral health services at Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, and co-author of the study.
“Our conclusion from the work is that there is a need to improve health literacy about community water fluoridation and that the information provided needs to consider and address the cultural appropriateness of community water fluoridation. The information needs to be provided in a culturally appropriate context.”