San Jose, CA Gives Residents a Timely Gift of Better Oral Health
The holiday season is a time of giving, and families in several areas of San Jose, California received an early gift on December 12 when their local water system began providing water with fluoride to their homes. Roughly 230,000 local residents gained access that day to fluoridated water—a public health approach that has been endorsed by every leading health and medical organization.
The good news doesn’t stop there. By the year 2020, an additional 520,000 residents will gain access to fluoridated water when the local water district upgrades two additional water treatment facilities.
Fred Ferrer, CEO of The Health Trust—a San Jose-based nonprofit organization—is excited to see the first phase of fluoridation’s expansion. “It’s a social justice issue,” Ferrer told the Mercury News. “The richest kids in Palo Alto have had fluoride for years, but the kids in East San Jose haven’t.”
Ferrer told the newspaper his organization spearheaded the push for expanding fluoridation in greater San Jose because of the extent of dental disease that The Health Trust’s clinics were seeing. He said that many elementary school-age kids were arriving at clinics with rampant tooth decay and dental pain.
The Health Trust took the lead in advancing fluoridation, but it built a diverse coalition with several key partners, including the county health department, the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and the Silicon Valley Leadership Council. Founded by Hewlett-Packard, the Council represents more than 400 of the region’s most prominent employers on key issues shaping the health and economic opportunity of Silicon Valley residents.
Another crucial local ally was PACT (People Acting in Community Together), which reinforced The Health Trust’s concerns about health equity in its public communications. According to PACT, the San Jose area’s limited access to fluoridated water has meant denial of “very basic health protections that are available to residents of other cities” in Santa Clara County.
San Jose is the most recent major U.S. cities to approve a plan ensuring fluoridation for most or all residents. It took a long time to get such a plan approved because the San Jose area’s water landscape is fairly complicated, governed by 13 different local governments and water agencies. The drive for health equity by a broad spectrum of partners has finally led to success. Congratulations!