San Francisco gets a checkup

The healthiness of The City will be put to the test when a federal agency begins surveying residents on how they take care of themselves.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey has been conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more than 40 years; this will be the first year that the federal agency will include San Francisco residents in its nationwide survey, which gathers health information on Americans.

The National Center for Health Statistics, a part of the CDC, performs the survey of 15 counties and 7,000 randomly selected residents in those counties, and they will begin their effort in The City on Thursday, said Nora Martinello, the senior study manager.

In San Francisco, the CDC sent out letters and postcards to 1,100 selected households informing them that surveyors — with official CDC badges — may knock on their doors looking for basic demographic information such as age and race, Martinello said.

Chosen participants will then be asked to come down to their mobile examination center — four tractor trailer trucks connected — parked at The Embarcadero and Howard Street to take height, weight, hearing, vision and other noninvasive tests, she said.

Participants will also be asked about their diet, exercise and family medical history, and their confidentiality will be closely guarded, Martinello assured. They can also receive a stipend of up to $100 and transportation to the center will be provided, Martinello said.

“They look at a statistic sampling so when we visit all counties they will have the same type of demographic makeup as the United States as a whole,” she said.

The study provides yearly estimates on increases or decreases in the rates of such diseases as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, obesity and osteoporosis. Martinello said every year some diseases they monitor change based on funding; this year, she said, surveyors will monitor asthma and other respiratory ailments as well as macular degeneration, a chronic eye disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Local health officials applauded the effort for the insight it provides into residents. “Anything that raises the nutritional awareness of our community helps us make decisions about programs and where to direct resources,” said Department of Public Health spokeswoman Eileen Shields.

dsmith@examiner.com

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