Building Support for Community Water Fluoridation

You have identified and recruited your Community Champions. BrocktonYour key messages are in place. You may (or may not yet) know where your policymakers and decision-makers stand on community water fluoridation. You have familiarized yourself with the facts and science behind community water fluoridation. Now, it’s time to build your campaign, deepen your network, and move to action!

Three Tips to Success

Talk about water fluoridation with friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
Reach out to local organizations for their support.
Keep building your Community Champions.

Gain support from local organizations

Gaining support from local organizations is as crucial as gaining  support from local opinion leaders and community members. Local organizations can help demonstrate to policymakers and decision-makers, as well as community members, the broad support for water fluoridation among a range of community interests. Also, local organizations will be interested in seeing what other organizations are supporting your effort and will want to join in!

Local organizations can include the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and community centers. They can also include state chapters of the American Medical Association, the American Dental Association, and other national organizations. 

Local organization support can be gained in the same way that Community Champion support is gained. Reach out to someone you may know (a leader or board member of the organization) and ask for a meeting to discuss water fluoridation. Bring an information packet along as well as a letter to the editor for them to sign, which can later be shown to policymakers, and posted on your website (if you decide to have a campaign website).

You may also want to ask local organizations to put a sign or decal somewhere prominent in their office to show their support for fluoridating your community. See a sample decal.

Keep in mind that it may take time to gain local organization support. Some may be willing to sign on immediately; others may want to bring it to their board for discussion and vote; and still others may shy away from the supposed “controversy.” Don’t give up.

Build broad community support

Now it’s time to gain support from community members. This is where your Community Champions are needed the most!

  • Hang out where people hang out. Local events are great places to talk with people about community water fluoridation. So are parks and supermarkets. Some people may not have a lot of time to give you, so a simple flyer or post card with key facts about your campaign and community water fluoridation might be best to have on hand. You can also bring fact sheets (Fluoride 101Myths and FactsFluoride and the Environment, and How Fluoride Works) in case you meet folks who want to talk further and learn more.
  • Answer all of their questions and concerns, but if you don’t have the answer, it is ok! Refer them to a resource where they can find the answer or offer to get back in touch with them. You can also give them fact sheets.
  • Get them to sign a pledge card of support. Let them know that this will help policymakers and decision-makers see the broad base of community support for water fluoridation.

If you have more time and resources, there are lots of  other ways to engage the community:

  • Create a banner. Much like a pledge card but bigger so that many community members can sign at once. You can bring the banner to various events and places where there are lots of residents in order to get as many signatures as possible. The banner makes a very powerful visual statement about the support for water fluoridation in your community and can be used with policymakers. See a sample banner.
  • Recruit friends, neighbors, and colleagues to help fluoridate your community and ultimately become a Community Champion.
  • Sign letters to the editor. When the time comes, you will want lots of support in your local newspaper and it’s a good idea to enlist folks now who might be willing to write a letter to the editor (or put their name on one that you draft for them). You will need more people to write the letters beyond Community Champions!
  • Use paid media such as online/mobile ads, newspaper ads, billboard, transit ads, if appropriate in your community. See sample online digital ads.
  • Develop a Facebook page or a website for your campaign.
    • Creating a Facebook page is easy and free – but you need to have someone dedicated to posting content on a regular basis, to engaging other Community Champions on Facebook, and to responding to comments, more likely from the opposition (which will be in full force on Facebook!) Download sample social media posts.

Remember, you don’t have to be an expert on oral health or water fluoridation!