198111 Domestic use of non-fluoridated tap water in a rural Latino community: Beliefs and oral health implications

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 8:30 AM

Judith C. Barker, PhD , Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine; Center to Address Disparities in Children's Oral Health (CAN DO), University of California - San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Rosalia A. Mendoza, MD, MPH , Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Jane A. Weintraub, DDS, MPH , Center to Address Disparities in Children's Oral Health, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Howard F. Pollick, BDS, MPH , School of Dentistry, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Kathleen A. O'Connor, PhD , School of Nursing, University of Texas, El Paso, El Paso, TX
Objective: To understand non-fluoridated tap water (TW) consumption practices and beliefs held by rural, low-income Latino caregivers of young children.

Methods: Focus groups and semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of 40 Latino caregivers of children aged 0 to 5 years in one rural community in Central California. Verbatim transcripts of translated audio-tapes permitted standard qualitative analysis to identify themes.

Results: Data revealed a universal preference for bottle or commercial filtered water (BW) for drinking, regardless of country of origin or length of time in the US. Caregivers uniformly rejected the municipal TW supply as safe because of its unpleasant taste, smell and color, but half the sample believed it was rendered safe if used in cooking. Sickness (diarrhea and vomiting) was believed to result from drinking TW, especially for infants or young children. Most households used TW only for bathing or laundry. Many of these beliefs arose from personal experiences in the caregivers' country of origin, and are reinforced by current and past reports of toxic chemicals and water pollution in the agricultural businesses where these caregivers work. A large majority would drink fluoridated TW if it could be proven safe, and taste, odor and color issues addressed.

Conclusions: This study reveals multiple barriers to TW consumption in a rural, low-income, predominantly immigrant, Latino community. Results emphasize the importance of assessing water beliefs and practices in the local community context. These results inform potential early childhood caries prevention efforts and community-based fluoridated TW interventions. (NIDCR #U54DE14251)

Learning Objectives:
1.) Identify three beliefs or experiences that lead Latino community members to distrust the safety of the municipal water supply. 2.) Understand how caregivers of children aged 0-5 years have responded to their distrust of tap water 3.) Assess the implications of these beleifs and associated practices for oral health, especially prevention of early childhood caries. 2.

Keywords: Oral Health, Community Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I undertook the research project discussed and have conducted related research on this and other oral health topics for several years
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.