Bar uneven for county kids

When it comes to health and well-being, San Mateo County’s children and teens are faring better than California kids overall, but a deep disparity exists along racial and economic lines, according to a new report.

The study, which measures health, development, school achievement and family and community support, was presented to supervisors Tuesday. It is produced every two years by the county’s health department and a variety of private agencies.

San Mateo County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow said that despite many positive findings, there are “significant pockets of children in need” on the Peninsula.

“In the U.S., health equals wealth. That’s not good public policy, but that’s the way it is,” he said.

Disparities exist along racial and economic lines as well, he said. While 6.6 percent of San Mateo County babies are born at a low birth weight, that number jumps to 14 percent among babies born to black mothers. Only 23 percent of low-income third-graders scored at or above the national 50th percentile on the California Achievement Test for reading in 2006, compared with 51 percent of kids who are not economically disadvantaged.

Also troubling were the findings that in 2005, one-third of 2- to

11-year-olds in the county had never seen a dentist, compared with 24 percent statewide. In 2004, one-fourth of the county’s fifth-, sixth- and ninth-graders were overweight, according to the report.

However, the report also highlighted many of the county’s efforts to increase access to health care for all kids. In the fall of 2006, about 3,000 county children were without health insurance, down from 17,000 uninsuredprior to the establishment of the San Mateo County Children’s Health Initiative in 2003.

More San Mateo County mothers are receiving prenatal care earlier in their pregnancies than ever before. In 2004, 89.8 percent of residents giving birth received prenatal care in their first trimester, according to the report.

tbarak@examiner.com

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