County’s boozing, snoozing bashed

The results of San Mateo County’s checkup are in and the doctor’s advice is clear: Lay off the booze and stop sitting on the couch.

Binge drinking has soared in the county during the last several years, according to a comprehensive study that measures health trends and quality of life in the county through 2007. Among 18- to 24-year-old men, 44.8 percent reported having five or more drinks in one sitting, according to the recent county Health Department report.

“Binge drinking among men that age has skyrocketed in the last 10 years,” county health officer Dr. Scott Morrow said Tuesday. “About half the men that age are binge drinkers. This is not a genetic shift — this is a cultural trend.”

The report, which has been released every three years since 1994 and guides policy and planning decisions, also said that a majority of the county’s adults — 56.7 percent — are overweight. And while that’s still nearly 10 percentage points less than the national average, it represents a significant jump from 50.8 percent reported in 1998.

But as more and more Peninsula residents struggle with their weight, they contribute to an increase in high cholesterol and high blood pressure rates, he said. The overall adult diabetes rate hovers around 10 percent, according to the report.

Fewer than one in 10 adults in San Mateo County take all of the precautions necessary to prevent chronic disease — abstain from smoking, keep their weight down, exercise regularly, and eat adequate fruits and vegetables, according to the report. In the north part of the county, only 5percent of adults exhibit the healthy behaviors, Morrow said.

Overall, the results from the report were both reassuring and alarming, Morrow said.

“You are healthier now than you have ever been in the past,” he told a room full of health care and community leaders gathered in Redwood City. “But there are storm clouds on the horizon.”

tbarak@examiner.com

Children on Peninsula face health challenges

Children in San Mateo County have more access to health care than in years past, but aren’t doing much better than adults in exhibiting healthy behaviors.

The county Health Department study found the rate of parents who said their children had fair or poor access to health care fell from 21.7 percent in 2001 to 16.4 percent in 2007. Additionally, an estimated 90 percent of 2-year-olds are up-to-date with their immunizations.

While kids spending multiple hours in front of the television or playing video games seems to be declining overall, more than 22 percent report watching more than three hours of television each day.

Fewer than one in 10 San Mateo County adults take all of the precautions necessary to prevent chronic disease, the report states.

In 2006, just more than one-third of county seventh-graders met the basic fitness requirements set by the California Department of Education, though it is still better than the statewide average. Boys and black and Hispanic students fared worst in the fitness tests.

But perhaps the biggest threat to families, said county health officer Dr. Scott Morrow, is the cost of living in San Mateo County. A parent supporting a family of three would have to make approximately $35 an hour to make it on the Peninsula, he said.

Low-income residents are working two to three jobs, and working longer hours with fewer benefits, he said. Nearly 24 percent of those surveyed for the report say their job does not offer health benefits to its workers — up from 19.8 percent in 2001.

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