Alcoholism increasing among San Franciscans

The rate of alcoholism in San Francisco has increased since 2006, according to new statistics released Wednesday during a meeting about ways to improve overall health in The City.

The number of adults visiting the emergency room due to alcohol abuse between 2006 and 2008 was 43.1 hospital visits per 10,000 residents, according to the hospital leadership council. In the time period of 2009 through 2011, that rate increased to 60.9 hospital visits per 10,000 people. The majority of people who visit an emergency room for alcohol-related issues are men between the ages of 45 and 64.

A majority of clients are discharged once they reach “a safe level of sobriety,” according to the San Francisco Health Improvement Partnership, which tracked the goals and the progress set forth three years ago for health issues in The City.

In San Francisco, a city that the real estate website Trulia last year rated as being in the top 10 big cities for bars per capita, the alcohol-related emergency room visits also trickle over into other facilities. According to statistics, as many as 7,500 individuals had also visited The City's sobering center by the end of 2011. The center had a total of 26,000 people come through its doors.

Many of these visits are the result of clients being transported to the sobering center instead of the emergency room. Roughly 80 percent of the people sent to the sobering center are repeat clients; 80 percent of clients also had a history of homelessness.

The Wednesday event was a triannual meeting in which hospital and city leaders all committed to improving the overall health of The City, and alcoholism was one of many points addressed.

“Together, we have a collective impact on improving the health of San Francisco,” said Susan Currin, CEO of San Francisco General Hospital. “First, we need to ensure healthy living environments. Secondly, we need to increase healthy eating and physical activity, and third, we need to increase access to quality health care and services.”

In addition to the rate of alcoholism, the rates of STDs including chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis increased as well.

The council hopes to not only continue to address these problems but also to increase access to health to all communities in San Francisco over the next three to five years.

On the opposite side, the rate of HIV has decreased in The City, as have the number of adults who smoke. The number of seventh-graders who are physically fit also improved.

The hospital council also is looking to address the disparity in health. Hospital visits for treatment of diseases such as diabetes, congestive heart failure and even lung cancer is higher in communities of color.

“Health equality is another word for social justice,” said Barbara Garcia, director of the Department of Public Health. “I have committed myself for the next part of my career to ensure all individuals living in these housing projects have provided services and have connections with all our services.”


Health indicators that improved

• Hospitalization rates due to uncontrolled diabetes

• Preventable emergency room visits

• HIV incidents

• Rates of adults who smoke

• Colon cancer screenings

• Mammogram history

• Physically fit seventh-graders

Indicators that have worsened

• Alcohol abuse

• Chlamydia

• Gonorrhea

• Syphilis

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