pdf ANZCA15 Ashwell Popular

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ANZCA15 Ashwell.pdf

Abstract

The fluoridation of public water supplies has been an area of contention in many countries. In New Zealand in 2013 a debate about the fluoridation of the Waikato region’s water supply occurred. This study investigates how the Waikato Times, the regional newspaper, reported the issue. The findings reveal the issue was reported primarily in the Letters to the Editor (LTEs) section and that some of these letters blurred the lines between those written by activists and the personal and emotionally charged stories preferred by editors. This is an area for further research. Moreover, the science behind fluoride was poorly reported giving the public little guidance to make an informed decision. While the Waikato Times reported the issue in a socially responsible manner the views of those opposed to fluoride were mainly reported in LTEs and as suggested this has implications for activist groups. The paper also suggests that more research into these types of public debates is required as they give important insights into how policies regarding science and health are debated in the wider community.