Guest view: A healthy San Benito begins today – join the movement

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Are you interested in healthy people and communities in San Benito County? National Public Health Week is an annual opportunity for everyone to take a few days to think about, celebrate and take action to improve the health of all of us. This year National and San Benito County Public Health Week is April 2-9.

San Benito County is generally healthy by some measures and not so healthy by others. For example, about 25 percent of our adult residents are obese compared to 23 percent for California according to the 2011 County Health Rankings (www.countyhealthrankings.org). Only 50 percent of our residents have easy access to healthy food, as defined by grocery stores and produce stands or farmer’s markets, compared to the national benchmark of 92 percent. Additionally, the measure for access to recreational facilities in our county is 11 per 100,000 people and the national benchmark is 17. Let’s work to improve access to healthy food and recreational opportunities for everyone. It will help greatly to reduce our obesity.

Motor vehicle crash deaths here occurred at 17 per 100,000 people, compared to the national benchmark of 12. Many of those are related to alcohol use or abuse and our measure for liquor store density is 15 per 100,000 population compared to nine for California. Let’s all be sure that our family and friends don’t drink and drive.

Statewide and here, we have recently controlled a pertussis epidemic through extensive vaccination, particularly of middle and high-school students, as well as parents and relatives of infants. This year, the flu season appears to have been not too severe, certainly in part due to people receiving flu vaccination. Let’s also all continue with frequent hand-washing, which helps greatly to prevent a lot of infections.

The measure for San Benito County teens giving birth is 42 per 1,000 females aged 15-19 years compared to the national benchmark of 22. Likely related to this elevated number is that high school graduation here is only 60 percent for ninth graders who graduate in four years, whereas the national benchmark is 92 percent. And, about 45 percent of our adults aged 25-44 years have some college education. Let’s advocate doing better to increase educational opportunities.

Each and every one of us has an important role to play and each action can make a big difference in ensuring healthier county communities. Easy and simple things we do can help save lives. For example, exercise regularly, eat healthy diets, avoid alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, practice proper hand-washing and food preparation, practice safe sex, and learn about, and be on the look out for signs of depression in family and friends. I urge all of us to advocate for and help improve the conditions in our communities where the healthy choices become the easy choices and where we all have opportunities to be healthier and productive throughout our lives. A healthier San Benito County begins today.

Alvaro Garza, MD, MPH, is the San Benito County Health Officer.

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