Deep structure and controversy: Re-reading the fluoridation debate

Block, Karen
October 2009
Health Sociology Review;Oct2009, Vol. 18 Issue 3, p246
Academic Journal
In Australia, fluoridation was first endorsed as an effective, safe and equitable means of improving population oral health over fifty years ago. However, recent opposition to attempts to introduce the measure in several regional Victorian towns has demonstrated that it remains a highly controversial health policy. This paper investigates the history of the Victorian fluoridation debate within a national and international context. It finds that although the evidence concerning fluoridation has advanced considerably, the essential arguments put forward by proponents and opponents have remained largely unchanged over that time. Protagonists incorporate the same scientific evidence yet come to polarised and unshakeable conclusions. I argue that the concept of deep structure ideation is a useful means to understand how this occurs. Furthermore, analysis of the ideas and social processes that determine a partisan position in the fluoridation debate makes this an important case study for approaching other durable scientific controversies.


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