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Fluoridated Water Cost Effective - Health Minister

Health Minister Annette King said today a new Environmental Scientific Research report on the cost-effectiveness of fluoridated water was great news for small communities.

Mrs King said the report, written for the Ministry of Health, showed fluoridated water could be cost effective for a community of 1000 or even lower, not 2500 as previously thought.

"This is excellent news," Mrs King said. "I have asked the Ministry of Health to investigate the feasibility of subsidies for fluoridating water. The analysis is based on averted decay and dental treatment, and doesn't touch on other benefits of good oral health such as freedom from pain and suffering, and improved self-esteem."

The study showed fluoridation to be very economic for populations of more than 1000, with dental savings exceeding fluoridation costs. A previous cost-benefit analysis, done in the 1970s by the Ministry of Works, estimated a community of 2500 was needed for cost-effective fluoridation.

"This new estimate is conservative. The true break-even point may be much lower in communities with high proportions of children, Maori and/or people of low socio-economic status for whom dental decay is a problem area.

"Smaller communities already fluoridating their water supply should not consider this figure as a reason to stop fluoridating water as this estimate is a national one and each community needs to consider its demographic composition and how this may skew the cost-benefit. Even in smaller communities, where the cost of fluoridation is greater than the cost of averted dental treatment, fluoridation may be economic, depending on how much the community values freedom from pain, improved self esteem and other benefits not included in the study," Mrs King said.

For more information contact: John Harvey (04) 471 9305; or Dr Michael Bates, report author, epidemiologist and toxicologist, ESR (04) 237
2389, or Dr Donald Campbell, Medical Officer of Health, Public Health Protection, Auckland Healthcare (09) 262 1855.


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