Who are the 10%? Characteristics of the populations and communities receiving fluoridated water in England

Blessing Nyakutsikwa Thomas Allen Tanya Walsh Iain Pretty Stephen Birch Martin Tickle Deborah Moore

Who are the 10%? Characteristics of the populations and communities receiving fluoridated water in England

Authors: Blessing Nyakutsikwa Thomas Allen Tanya Walsh Iain Pretty Stephen Birch Martin Tickle Deborah Moore
doi: 10.1922/CDH_00092Nyakutsikwa07

Abstract

Objectives: In England, around 10% of the population receive optimally fluoridated water. This coverage has evolved through a combination of historical local decision-making and natural geography, rather than being strategically targeted at the national level. It is important to understand if the current distribution is equitable according to indicators of oral health need and to identify any population-level differences in socio-demographic characteristics that could introduce bias to studies evaluating the effectiveness of water fluoridation. Basic research design: Descriptive analysis comparing the census characteristics of populations that received optimally fluoridated (=/> 0.7 mg F/L) and non-fluoridated water (<0.7 mg F/L) between 2009 and 2020. Results: Populations receiving fluoridated water between 20092020 were on average slightly younger, more urban, more deprived, with lower education levels, higher unemployment and lower car and home ownership than the populations who received non-fluoridated water. They are more ethnically diverse, with a higher proportion of Asian ethnicity and a lower proportion of White ethnicity, compared to the non-fluoridated population. Discussion: This descriptive analysis provides evidence that water fluoridation coverage within England is targeted reasonably equitably in relation to population-level indicators of need. It also confirms the need to consider the impact of underlying differences in age, deprivation, rurality, and ethnicity when evaluating the impact of water fluoridation on health outcomes in England. Keywords: Oral health, Public health, Fluoridation

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