Lessons to Guide Local Advocates

Posted & filed under Facts about Fluoride, Fluoride and Public Health, What the Experts Say about Fluoride.

Although most attempts to end community water fluoridation (CWF) fail, these challenges continue to arise. Over the past 12 months, critics have attacked the practice in a number of communities — from Denver, Colorado to Collier County, Florida. Fortunately, the scientific evidence is on our side. But is that enough?

Water DropSometimes the science is enough to prevail in these local challenges, and sometimes it isn’t. Focusing solely on evidence-based messages can overlook other factors that shape how a community reaches its decision. Those factors are closely examined in a 2015 Fluoridation Advocacy: Pew’s Contributions and Lessons That Emerge report by the Children’s Dental Health Project, which explored the impact that The Pew Charitable Trusts had by providing research, technical assistance and other resources to support state and local efforts to initiate or retain fluoridation. And Pew learned many key lessons.

For example, Pew learned that:

  • Messages matter, but so do the messengers. The public support of Arkansas Children’s Hospital encouraged legislators in that state to pass a law that is significantly expanding fluoridation. Approval of a fluoridation policy for San Jose, California was aided by a broad coalition of supporters that included the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
  • Events on the ground can change quickly, and that’s why a pro-fluoridation campaign must be nimble. The committee or structure created by supporters should enable them to direct funding or resources wherever they are needed without delay. A spokesperson or two should be chosen early on so that any requests for presentations or media interviews can be handled promptly.

This report has a variety of crucial lessons that can strengthen advocates’ ability to succeed. We encourage them to read the report and see how it can inform their ongoing work.