By a vote of 59-41, Wichitans voted down a ballot measure which would have fluoridated the largest non-fluoridated city in the United States.
A statement on the Wichitans for Healthy Teeth website read:
Delays in Sedgwick County election results make it difficult to say for certain what the final vote count will be, but it now appears that there are not enough remaining precincts outstanding to catch up.
This is disappointing but not surprising. After all, the anti-fluoride leaders pumped a lot of money into robo-calls, direct-mail and other messages that misled and confused voters.
KWCH Channel 12 examined three common arguments that were used to attack fluoridation, and it judged all three of these messages to be either false or misleading. We tried our best to get the facts out to voters, but it was a neverending challenge because so much of what’s posted on the Internet about this issue is inaccurate.
It’s unfortunate that Wichita will continue to be saddled with the unnecessary pain and costs associated with one of highest rates of tooth decay in Kansas. 58 percent of Wichita area children suffer from tooth decay at a rate higher than anywhere else in the state. We see first-hand people that are suffering from tooth decay and unnecessary pain – issues that could be prevented. We will continue to promote good oral health practices and hope Wichitans will one day embrace this beneficial health practice.
Wichitans have the choice today to bring water fluoridation, one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th Century, to their community when they go to the polls to vote today. As the campaign has wound down over the past few days, oral health advocates in Wichita are working to get their message out to the remaining undecided voters and keep the science based public health message in front of voters.
Latest polls suggest the race has narrowed to a statistical dead heat. KWCH TV in Wichita released a poll on October 30 showing the ballot issue trailing 43%-44%. Earlier polling showed the question with considerable widespread support.
“Voting is very important as it is in any election,” said Dr. Sara Meng, who chairs the local pro-fluoridation group known as Wichitans for Health Teeth. ”We are hoping to have mobilized the silent majority of Wichitans who want the benefits community water fluoridation can provide for our entire community to overcome the vocal minority who spread misinformation intended to cast fear and doubt on a time tested, for over 65 years, well studied community health initiative that 75% of Americans are already benefiting from.”
Supporters came together on multiple occasions last week, lined the street and waved signs that read “Fluoride Vote Yes!” and the Wichita Eagle released its endorsement in support of water fluoridation. Still, with broad support across the medical community, thousands of petitioners, yard signs throughout the community and the endorsement of 47 organizations, including the Kansas Dental Association, the issue remains tight and voter turnout is critical.
“From my personal perspective, the community has been overwhelmingly pro fluoridation,” said Meng. ”Every day patients voice thier support and frustration or disbelief that we don’t already have fluoridation for our community and want to see Wichita have the same benefits other communities have been seeing for years. As soon as advanced voting started, many have proudly told me they voted Yes for Fluoride and hoped it would pass this time so we could have this proven community dental health strategy for our community.”
Wichitans for Healthy Teeth have worked diligently over the past several months to educate residents of the health benefits of water fluoridation and to counter the anti-fluoridation barrage led by people outside of Kansas.
Past defeats of water fluoridation efforts in Wichita have left it the largest city in the United States that has not approved community water fluoridation after sixty-five of use in the U.S. Cost savings have been estimated at $4.5 million by reducing the need for filings or other more expensive dental treatments.
Private donors have announced they will fund $1.35 million for startup costs, more than half the estimated $2.3 million
Election day is tomorrow and this vote will be close. The only way we will win is everyone commits to talking to their friends, family, and colleagues about the benefits of community water fluoridation. Please reach out to those you know and share the facts below.