Newly released child-health research for Santa Clara County
shows both some encouraging and troubling news.
Newly released child-health research for Santa Clara County shows both some encouraging and troubling news.
The county exceeds the overall state in the percent of youngsters being immunized and the number of kids who have health insurance.
However, a fifth of teenagers surveyed reported they had seriously thought about committing suicide, while 30 percent had driven after drinking or rode with someone else who had been drinking.
The information comes from the Santa Clara County Children and Youth “Key Indicators of Well Being 2003” report, which was compiled from survey results of nearly 16,000 seventh, ninth and 11th graders from public schools across the county.
“The findings reported today are significant,” said Guadalupe Olivas, director of the county’s public health department. “In Santa Clara County, children and youth under age 18 make up 34 percent of our total population.”
“In a number of areas, Santa Clara County is ahead of the overall state,” said Supervisor Jim Beall, chairman of the Board’s Committee on Children, Seniors and Families. “Whether it is the percent of youngsters being immunized, the rate of teen births, the incidences of child abuse, or the high school dropout rate, we have a story of which to be proud.
“However, we are concerned about the what this survey reveals about substance abuse, thoughts about suicide, and obesity among teens.”
Alcohol remains the number one drug of choice among the nation’s youth. In Santa Clara County, the numbers are no different. A total of 39 percent of students in middle and high school have had at least one drink of alcohol during their lifetime with 22 percent reporting they had at least one drink in the last 30 days.
Twenty percent of respondents said they had their first drink before age 13; 8 percent perceived no harm in drinking alcohol with a higher percentage of male students compared to female students. Even more startling is that over half of the respondents did not perceive any difficulty getting alcohol – a statistic that increases as the students move into higher grades.
The report shows the county is a state leader in certain indicators of child well-being. For example, the percent of uninsured kids here is roughly 3 percent versus almost 10 percent statewide. The infant mortality rate is 4.6 per thousand versus 5.4 in California. And the incidence of child abuse is 37 per 1000 here against 65 per 1000 in the state.
Meanwhile, the teen birth and high school dropout rates have declined from previous local totals.
Meanwhile, more than 30 percent of respondents considered themselves overweight. About 17 percent of kids ages 5-20 were identified at risk of being overweight, while 16 percent of kids 2-5 were at risk.
Thirteen percent of students said they had actually made a suicide plan, while 7 percent of middle school and 9 percent of high school students reported actually making an attempt.
County officials urged adults to take the time to listen to young people and their concerns.
“While there are a number of resources available here in the county, these findings are tantamount to a call to parents, teachers, neighbors, ministers and others who come into contact with area teens everyday,” said Sandra Nathan, deputy county executive.
Meanwhile, the county’s Project LEAN works to combat obesity, especially among teens and low income families. Another program – reportedly the first of its kind in the state – focuses on prevention by allowing students to witness the court trials of actual DUI offenders.