Fat fighters pushing preventive programs

More than half of San Mateo County’s residents are overweight, and health leaders say they are not taking it lying down.

Now they’re hoping residents won’t, either.

The Sequoia Healthcare District, which operates hospitals and medical programs in the Peninsula, released a 56-page report this week analyzing what medical services are not being provided adequately, and how to remedy the situation. </p>

The report also shows that 57 percent of San Mateo County residents are overweight, less than 10 percent live healthy lifestyles that could prevent premature deaths and 54 percent do not participate in regular exercise.

The district plans on shifting its resources away from treating people who are sick and focusing more on preventing people from becoming unhealthy in the first place, said interim Executive Director Dev Mahadevan.

“If you’re drinking three cans of pop a day … and if your major source of exercise is pressing the remote, it’s not good for you,” Mahadevan said. “Clearly we need to spend more money on those sorts of things.”

Local programs, education and awareness will be increased to cut down on obesity, diabetes and other health problems running rampant throughout the county.

In addition to grants, the district has anywhere from $7 million to $10 million in taxpayer and other dollars to dole out to about 15 programs each year, Mahadevan said. The district also offers programs for living healthy during a disaster, and keeping youth and adults engaged and active.

Supervisor Rich Gordon, who was interviewed during Sequoia’s independent report by Los Angeles-based The Camden Group, said he would like to see existing services, such as the Children’s Health Initiative for uninsured kids, continue to thrive.

The district is generally more helpful in providing the county with money than vice versa, so it would be difficult to increase funding for Sequoia’s programs, Gordon said.

Northern Peninsula is also beefing up its plans to slim down residents.

Cheryl Fama, CEO of the Peninsula Healthcare District in Burlingame, said her group is in the process of determining health trends in the northern part of the county before itapplies for a new batch of grants. They also purchased 5,000 pedometers to pass out to residents looking to get healthy “one step at a time,” Fama said.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

By the numbers

San Mateo County health statistics

57% Population that is overweight

54% Population that doesn’t participate in regular exercise

67,000 Non-elderly population without health care

24% Population without employer-provided health care available

Source: The Camden Group

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