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August 11, 2010

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Shock figures on alcohol abuse

ABOUT 8.9 percent of Shanghai residents are damaging their health by drinking a "harmful" level of alcohol, compared to the national average of 3.3 percent.

And some 6.8 percent of local people are drinking at a "hazardous" level, higher than the national 2.6 percent, local officials told the International Forum on City and Health at the Expo Center yesterday.

"I am shocked by the number of local people drinking too much, as Shanghainese are not considered people who like alcohol as much as those living in the (country's) north," Vice Mayor Shen Xiaoming said. "The high percentage of women drinking to excess also surprised me very much."

A man who drinks an average of 60g of alcohol a day or above is considered a harmful drinker. For a woman, the threshold is 40g. And the range for hazardous drinking is 40g-60g for men and 20g-40g for women.

About 9.8 percent of local men and 0.9 percent of local women are consuming harmful amounts of alcohol, while the national levels are 6.1 percent and 0.5 percent. In Shanghai, about 7.1 percent of men and 4.3 percent of women drink hazardous amounts of alcohol, while the national level is 4.2 percent and 0.8 percent, the forum heard.

"The risk factors for local people's health are complicated, but the major causes are unhealthy lifestyles, including smoking and excessive drinking, and obesity," Shen said. About 8.9 percent of local people are obese and 29.7 percent of people are smokers. Both percentages are a little higher than the national average.

The top causes of death in the city last year were non-contagious chronic diseases (92.2 percent), accidental injuries (5.31 percent) and infectious diseases, maternal and infant diseases and malnutrition, the forum heard.

"Though the local health service has made great achievements such as a long average life span and low mortality for pregnant women and infants, we still face many challenges like the rising number of elderly, people's unhealthy lifestyles and the growing incidence of cancer," Shen said.

Shanghai is to follow the example of Western countries in a forthcoming trial of a family doctor service featuring trained general physicians at neighborhood health centers, Shen said.

Family doctors will be the primary health providers for the public. Each doctor will serve 2,000 to 3,000 residents.

Shanghai will also set up a medical database for each resident with information shared by hospitals, communities, family doctors, government departments and residents.

The forum was also told that better health care for the elderly, better health services for students and a warning system to alert the public to weather conditions that could cause health problems would be set up in the city over the next few years.


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