School of Health & Social Care

National study aims to get to the bottom of hotly contested issue

24 January 2018 @TeesUniNews

 

Research at Teesside University is gauging public opinion to find out what people really think about a controversial public health measure.

Water fluoridation is considered by many to be a cost-effective measure to help reduce health disparities, promote dental health and reduce the cost of dental procedures for the National Health Service, as fluoridated water makes teeth more resistant to decay.

However, despite being backed by the Government and health organisations, only about 10% of people in England receive fluoridated drinking water.

It is a controversial issue, with those who are opposed to water fluoridation claiming it is a ‘compulsory medication’, an infringement of their beliefs and a chemical that should not be added to our water.

Ultimately, the decision as to whether to add fluoride to drinking water rests with the individual local authority. The local authority is required by law to hold a public consultation and the decision is made based on the public mandate.

Priyanka Vasantavada, who is a PhD student at Teesside University, says that the whole point of the public consultations at local authority level is often defeated as campaigners on both sides of the argument try to get their points across so passionately that the opinions and concerns of the public remain largely unheard.

Most often this results in either withdrawal of the proposal to fluoridate or, in the event of a public consultation taking place, rejection of the proposal. She is now conducting a nationwide online study, one of the first of its kind, to truly establish how people in this country feel about water fluoridation.

This important study is completely neutral, designed to get a comprehensive understanding of the issue of water fluoridation.

Priyanka Vasantavada.

This work supports the University's Grand Challenge Research Theme of Health and Wellbeing which is part of a wider aim to address some of the global challenges of our time through focus on externally facing research which makes a real, practical difference to the lives of people, along with the success of businesses and economies.

Over 400 people have already completed the survey, but Priyanka is hoping to get that number up to around 2,500 to get a comprehensive understanding of what people know about water fluoridation and how they feel about it.

Priyanka worked as a dentist in India and completed a postgraduate degree in oral cancer from the University of Dundee before starting her PhD at Teesside University.

She said: 'This important study is completely neutral, designed to get a comprehensive understanding of the issue of water fluoridation. This study aims to assess the knowledge, awareness and the attitude of the public to water fluoridation and their reasons for it.'

The anonymous online survey takes around 10 minutes to complete and those who take part will be invited to carry out a further interview if they wish.