The removal of fluoride from the Hamilton city water supply will create greater oral health inequalities to the most disadvantaged in society, a disproportionate amount of whom are Māori, says Waikato District Health Board’s Iwi Māori Council.
Chairperson Harry Mikaere, also an appointed member of Waikato DHB’s board, urges Māori living in Hamilton, to vote for fluoride being added to the water in the upcoming city council-run referendum.
“The position of the Iwi Māori Council is that we acknowledge the poor oral health status of our community, and the low income some of these families experience, and we feel that it is of benefit to Māori – and to everyone – to have Hamilton’s water fluoridated,” said Mr Mikaere.
“The Iwi Maori Council understands the health implications of having fluoride removed from the water for our people. Māori have high dental needs – and many don’t have the money to seek the treatment required to fix the effects of tooth decay.
“The privilege of drinking fluoridated water every day provides protection for teeth regardless of whether you can afford toothpaste and a good, low sugar diet.”
He said for many Māori, community water fluoridation was the only available prevention measure against tooth decay.
Mr Mikaere serves on many councils and boards and is chair of Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki, which provides health services to the Hauraki and Coromandel communities. They were one of several organisations who convinced the Thames Coromandel District Council to retain fluoride in the Thames water supply earlier this year.
The Iwi Māori Council comprises membership from the four iwi of Tainui, as well as Tuwharetoa, Whanganui and Maata waka.
It is supported by Waikato DHB’s Māori Health, Te Puna Oranga. General manager Ditre Tamatea said every body is entitled to their view but fluoride is a naturally found compound that exists in all water.
,”Al the council historically was doing was topping it up to a level whereby all people would safely benefit by having stronger teeth. Ironically in some parts of the world fluoride can naturally be found in water to higher levels than what the council used to top the Hamilton water supply up to,” he said.
“The council’s decision to remove fluoride from the city’s water supply did not well represent the interest of Māori and was a prime example of a decision made by a select few that will create a growing gap between the oral health of those whom have much in society relative to those whom have very little.”
Mr Tamatea, like Mr Mikaere, urged Māori and others to participate in the referendum and to vote for fluoride being put back into the water supply.
“We have had it for several decades, it’s brought a benefit to those of our people worst off, let’s not give that up.
“If we fail to get fluoride back into our city’s water supply we can guarantee that over successive years from this date going forward that the oral health of lower-socioeconomic groups, including many Māori, will decline,” said Mr Tamatea.
“The further decline in the oral health of our population would have a significant social and financial cost not just on many whānau but on the health sector as well. The situation, unless changed, is set to go from bad to worse; those at the bottom of the heap will feel the impacts most disproportionately.”
For more information about water fluoridation visit www.waikatodhb.health.nz/fluoride
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