SAN FRANCISCO: Education Plan OK’d By Health Commissioners
San Francisco health commissioners gave their backing yesterday to a $2.4 million-a-year plan to hire 32 health educators and outreach workers to teach residents in the Bayview-Hunters Point district, "one of the city's poorest communities," how to prevent asthma and a variety of cancers. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "[d]riving the program are fears that the neighborhood -- 60% black and surrounded by industrial development and toxic waste sites -- poses environmental risks that result in higher disease rates." Health statistics show that the neighborhood suffers from "disproportionately" higher rates of such diseases as cervical and prostate cancer.
The program will deploy health outreach workers in a variety of community settings, including door-to-door cancer screening and a Health and Environment Resource Center "where community members can learn how to manage diseases like asthma." Cynthia Selmar, director of the health department's Southeast Health Center, said, "If we can pull this off, this will be a project of national significance." She added, "This population is not very trusting of the health care system. We need to have people from the community, who speak the language of the community, to get out to the people in the barber shop or standing on a corner."
The Chronicle reports that the plan must still be approved by the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Willie Brown (D), who need to decide "whether they want to pay for the program in next year's budget." The program was "developed by the Department of Public Health in conjunction with several community groups" in "response to a directive by city supervisors to find a way to lower disease rates in" the Bayview-Hunters Point area (Russell, 3/18).