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Health Department Releases Data Report

March 6, 2006

Accidental poisonings, alcohol abuse, and childhood overweight were among the topics addressed in a data report released today by the Cambridge Public Health Department.
The report is part of Cambridge Public Health Assessment 2006, the annual report of the Cambridge Health Alliance to the city of Cambridge.
The data report examined six health issues that were identified as priorities for the city in 2004:
  • Healthy housing
  • Healthy weight
  • Substance abuse prevention
  • Domestic violence prevention
  • Health disparities
The goal of the report was to offer a snapshot of the health status of Cambridge, as well as highlight Cambridge Health Alliance programs and services that address the six health issues.
Report highlights:
Drinking Water
  • Cambridge drinking water consistently meets or exceeds state and federal standards.
Lead Poisoning
  • Among the 2,232 children tested for lead in 2005, fewer than five had elevated lead levels. The health department believes this decline is largely due to widespread screening, family education, and an increase in the number of renovated and de-leaded residents in Cambridge.
Accidental Poisonings
  • Accidental poisoning emergency department visits among Cambridge children is one-third that of Massachusetts children.
  • Cambridge residents logged 387 calls to the Massachusetts Regional Poison Control Center in 2004. The greatest number of calls involved pharmaceutical substances (47%), cosmetics and beauty products (12%), and household cleaners (8%).
Childhood Overweight
  • 20% of Cambridge public school children (ages 5 to 14) are overweight and another 18% are at risk for overweight.
  • Black and Latino children living in Cambridge are more likely to be overweight than white or Asian children.
Substance Abuse
  • Alcohol is the drug of choice among Cambridge teenagers and adults. In Cambridge, 19% of public high school students and 25% of Cambridge adults reported binge drinking in the past 30 days. Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks on a single occasion.
  • White high school students in Cambridge were more likely than black students to report binge drinking, smoking marijuana, or using other drugs in the past 30 days.
Domestic Violence
  • The Cambridge Police Department receives approximately 1,000 calls every year related to domestic violence.
  • Among public high school students in Cambridge, 16% reported they had been verbally or emotionally abused by a family member, 4% reported they had been physically hurt by a family member, and 8% reported they had witnessed domestic violence in their home.
  • In Cambridge, like elsewhere in the United States, people of color are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. While black residents comprise only 11% of the city’s population, they made up 50% of new HIV diagnoses between 1999 and 2004. Latino residents, who comprise 7% of the city’s population, accounted for 10% of the new diagnoses during the same period.
  • Within the city’s communities of color, first generation immigrants from the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa have been especially affected by HIV/AIDS. While residents from these regions comprise only 9% of the city’s population, they account for 29% of the total HIV/AIDS cases in Cambridge.
Health Disparities
  • Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Cambridge. Black residents in Cambridge have a higher mortality rate from cardiovascular disease than white residents. While black women have a higher mortality rate from cardiovascular disease than white women, black men have a slightly lower mortality rate from cardiovascular disease than white men.
  • Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Cambridge. Black residents in Cambridge have a higher overall mortality rate from cancer than white residents. Among black and white men and women living in Cambridge, black men have the highest cancer mortality rate while black women have the lowest.
For more information about the report, please call the Cambridge Public Health Department at 617-665-3800. Cambridge Public Health Assessment 2006 is also available online at www.cambridgepublichealth.org.

Suzy Feinberg, MPH
Public Information Officer

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