Crowley, LA—The City of Crowley received a Community Initiative Award for contributions made on behalf of community water fluoridation at the Public Works Committee meeting on June 3rd. Ward Blackwell, Executive Director of the Louisiana Dental Association, presented the award to members of the Crowley City Council on behalf of the American Dental Association (ADA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors.
Blackwell, along with other members of the dental community, commended the City Council on recognizing the benefits of fluoridated water. The City of Crowley currently has a fluoridated water system. The Public Works Committee unanimously agreed to continue fluoridation after hearing evidence from local dentist, Dr. John Taylor; Karissa Page, Fluoridation Coordinator for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Office of Public Health, Maternal & Child Health; and Emily Davenport with the Healthy Smiles Louisiana Coalition.
The Healthy Smiles Louisiana Coalition is made up of many local and national organizations that support water fluoridation. These groups include the American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the World Health Organization. To view a list of all those groups in support of fluoridation and to learn more about the benefits, please visit www.HealthySmilesLouisiana.org.
As a dentist, you are a respected member of your community. We need people like you to step forward on an important issue. By now I’m sure you are probably aware of the new law that requires larger water systems (with a minimum of 5,000 service connections) that are not currently fluoridated to provide the state Department of Health and Hospitals with an estimate of the costs associated with providing optimally fluoridated water to customers.
As a result of this legislation, we are finding that opponents to community water fluoridation have begun spreading misinformation on the issue. You can find three examples of this activity below. In an effort to counter these claims, we are beginning a “Speakers’ Bureau” of credible local spokespeople (e.g., dentists) to provide the scientific and economic facts supporting our position.
We need your help. We are compiling a database of local professionals who are willing to speak on the benefits of water fluoridation, or are willing to help arrange speaking opportunities for other professionals to address your local groups and other associations such as chambers of commerce, and social and civic organizations such as Rotary and Kiwanis clubs. We will provide all the background materials including talking points, a PowerPoint presentation and handout materials. We simply need willing individuals to help.
The ultimate objective of the LDA’s new public affairs campaign that urges Louisianans to “Tap Into a Healthier Smile” is the passage of legislation that could bring fluoridated water to virtually everyone in Louisiana.
As part of the campaign, the LDA’s consultants conducted focus group research to determine how to best “frame” our message. Though an official report of the research has not been issued yet, the sessions clearly reinforced the importance of the messenger’s credibility as one of the most important factors in the success of any communication to be persuasive.
Your credibility with your patients is one of the strongest cards in the LDA’s hand, and the success of this campaign could well be determined by how frequently LDA members communicate with their patients and legislators. Some key points to bear in mind are:
• As with so many things, Louisiana ranks near the bottom in community water fluoridation (CWF) compared to other states. Only about 40% of Louisiana citizens currently benefit from CWF compared to 64% nationwide.
• The LA Office of Public Health estimates implementing CWF in all un-fluoridated LA communities with 10,000 or more homes would only cost about $6.5 million – a tiny amount when the state is reaping near billion dollar surpluses each year.
• The Centers for Disease Control calls CWF the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay and one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.
• Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance; small amounts are present to varying degrees in all water sources. CWF is simply the adjustment of the fluoride level in drinking water from that which naturally occurs to the optimum level to protect teeth.
• All kinds of supplements are added for health reasons to food and drink we consume: iodine is added to salt, vitamin D is added to milk, folic acid is added to breads and cereals, etc.
• There are all kinds of precedents for government to mandate activities with which some people disagree in the name of public health and safety, such as mandatory immunizations and seat belt laws.
• Every $1 invested in CWF saves roughly $38 in dental treatment costs. The savings in reduced Medicaid expenditures alone easily exceed the cost of community water fluoridation.
If everyone does just a little, we’re sure to have a successful 2008 legislative session. (3/08)
By: Kevin Hayes, J.D., member of the LDA lobbying team, partner with the law firm of Roedel, Parsons, Koch, Blache, Balhoff and McCollister
The 2008 Regular Session will begin March 31, 2008, and with 60 new House members and 18 new Senators, it promises to be a tremendous educational process as we try and let each new legislator know about the LDA.
The Louisiana Dental Association and the American Dental Association have partnered to make a push during the upcoming session to provide fluoridated water throughout Louisiana. We met early on with the Department of Health and Hospitals and in conjunction with them, we have produced several public service announcements (PSA’s) for both radio and television. We have also set up a Web site, www.healthysmileslouisiana.org, to provide factual information on the fluoridation issue.
The LDA used the time during the Governor’s first special session to visit with legislators and gauge their interest in various proposals that may be introduced. During the past several sessions, the legislature has been very reluctant to mandates and their impact on local governments. The LDA is trying to balance that concern with the need throughout this state for fluoride, and its effectiveness in preventing cavities and dental disease.
The LDA envisions two components of this legislative initiative. The first piece will be the enabling legislation, which will authorize fluoridated waters in communities that currently do not have it. This legislation will be handled by the House and Senate Health and Welfare Committees. The second component of this initiative is the funding mechanism that will move forward through the appropriations process.
As the session approaches and the LDA has a lead author and bill number, we will keep you aware of what is happening so that you can contact your legislators and express your support on fluoridation. Grassroots will be a necessary and very important component of this initiative. In the meantime, the “Tap Into a Healthier Smile” campaign will continue and you can keep up with its progress through the healthy smiles Web site. (3/08)
By: Ward Blackwell, LDA Executive Director
“Tap Into a Healthier Smile” is the theme for the LDA’s new public affairs campaign to broaden public, media and governmental awareness of the benefits of community water fluoridation and lay the groundwork for passing legislation in 2008 that could bring fluoridated water to virtually everyone in Louisiana.
The campaign is a partnership with the ADA and part of the State-Based Public Affairs Program initiated by the ADA earlier this year. With ADA funding, the LDA has hired a leading Louisiana communications firm, Creative Communications, Inc. (CCI) from Baton Rouge, to direct the public relations aspects of the project. We’ve also engaged our lobbying firm, Roedel Parsons, et al, in a new, separate contract to handle the campaign’s governmental relations aspects.
One of CCI’s initial actions will be to conduct focus groups, as well as statewide opinion polls to compile data that we expect will confirm public support for fluoridation. In addition, LDA and CCI distributed candidate questionnaires during the recent election period to get potential lawmakers to begin thinking of fluoridated water as a health care solution. The questionnaire also offered facts regarding fluoridation and is proving to be a valuable tool to help distinguish which new leaders are more likely to be receptive to the campaign.
As noted by Claire Rivette, director of governmental relations for CCI and communications director of the campaign, “There has been great turnover in the legislature, and it is probably safe to say that a majority of legislators are not acquainted with our issue. We plan to take advantage of this opportunity to educate our new leaders and give them meaningful, practical reforms to enact during their first terms in office. Plus, Governor-elect Jindal has long supported preventive health care initiatives.”
In addition, the team is working with a vast network of non-governmental groups that have an interest (positively and, perhaps, negatively) in this project. CCI made a presentation to LABI’s Health Care Task Force and asked the organization support a position statement in favor of our position.
However, not all groups will be as receptive. That is why LDA members and other dental professionals throughout Louisiana will be invaluable sources of help.
According to Rivette, “We hope to work with the LDA to establish a ‘Speaker’s Bureau’ of local activists/dentists who can speak about the issues to local civic groups. In addition, we’ll ask our partners to participate in a grassroots/grasstops campaign of letter writing to media and key elected officials. We also hope to book them on local television morning shows, radio talk shows and meetings with editorial boards of local newspapers.”
Furthermore, the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) has agreed to fund radio and TV public service announcements (PSAs) that will run across the state during the first quarter of 2008 and be produced by our team (DHH gets final approval of content). The PSAs will refer viewers/listeners to a Web site that can be accessed for additional information on fluoridation.
The multi-faceted nature of the campaign makes for a big job that has only just begun, but the stage appears to be set for possible success. The LDA slogan “Tap Into a Healthier Smile!” is already getting positive response. And as Rivette observed, “The time seems right, politically and economically, for Louisiana to make this decision, and we have a great team of political professionals, communications experts and dentists who can spread the good word. If our leaders are serious about improving health care in our state, the LDA’s strategy to fluoridate all the water systems in the state offers the easiest, most cost-effective way to save money and see quick results.”
So, be on the lookout for information and updates about this exciting LDA initiative. Our members' support is vital and appreciated. (12/07)
Links with this symbolare password protected for LDA members only.