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PHA Accused of Breaching Election Rules to Push Fluoridation


Public Health Association Accused of Breaching Election Rules to Push Fluoridation

The NZ Public Health Association, funded by the Ministry of Health, has been accused of breaching election rules and deceiving candidates in next month’s District Health Board elections.

Capital and Coast DHB candidates were asked to complete a PHA survey in August and were told it was “for the purpose of helping to provide information to PHA members and the general public.”

Candidates were unaware that the PHA used their replies to publish the PHA’s preferred ranking order to vote on the candidates. This most clearly promoted the PHA’s water fluoridation agenda, and was sent out to their 360 members.

The PHA has published a printed handout and a web page with emoji symbols of either smiling, frowning or “death” faces applied to each candidate, depicting the PHA’s approval or disapproval of each. These rankings have now also been published in a major Wellington newspaper.

Fluoride Free New Zealand will be making a formal complaint to the Electoral Commissioner to demand that the advertisement be taken off the PHA website, as they believe it is a clear breach of Election rules. Section 113 of the Local Electoral Act 2001. states that: no person may publish an advertisement that may appear to be used to promote the election of a candidate at an election.

The PHA may be liable for fines if found in breach of the rules.

One DHB candidate said, “We were deliberately misled about the purpose of the survey and their use of our responses is an obvious attempt by them to manipulate the democratic process.” The candidate did not wish to be named.

Mary Byrne, spokesperson for Fluoride Free New Zealand, who attended the “Meet the Candidates” meeting hosted by the PHA on Tuesday evening in Wellington said, “Only four PHA staffers ‘scored’ the candidates, and any candidates who had reservations, questions, or even suggested alternatives to water fluoridation were demeaned with the worst kind of emoji.”

The emoji to which Ms Byrne referred depicts a frowning face with the letter X over the eyes. Online, it is referred to as “The Death Emoji” and some have also associated it with “sickness, drunkenness and blindness,” says Ms. Byrne.

While the PHA claim to be a voluntary organization, Ms Byrne points out that, “PHA financial records show they are funded to the tune of $400,000 a year by the Ministry of Health. Over $250,000 of this goes directly into the pockets of the Board of Executive members as wages.”

Sue Kedgley, current DHB member and returning candidate in this year’s election said the PHA were treating it as “heresy to question anything regarding fluoridation, even what dose of fluoride bottle-fed babies are receiving.”

Dr Stan Litras, also a DHB candidate, asked everyone attending the meeting if they knew how much fluoride they had ingested yesterday – no one knew. He then asked what dose of fluoride the Environmental Protection Agency recommends as a safe limit. “Only one person in the audience could correctly state 0.06 mg/kg/day,” said Ms. Byrne.

Despite fluoridation not being mentioned as the top priority by any of the candidates, the publicly-funded PHA event organisers named fluoridation as their number one priority. “Perhaps it has something to do with the $400,000 a year they are receiving from the Government?” suggests Ms Byrne.

Whatever their agenda, it seems there may be some hot water for the PHA if they are found to be in breach of the election rules as a publicly-funded organisation.


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