A bicyclist passes Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.
A bicyclist passes Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

San Francisco’s public healthcare network consists of 14 primary clinics, offering general and specialized services to thousands of annual patients. 

We wanted to know: How does the city allocate public health resources to different neighborhoods and populations?

And we found out: Most of San Francisco’s health clinics are in its eastern neighborhoods and downtown — the areas with the highest rates of disease and risky behavior, like smoking and drinking. Most of the funding goes to these clinics, too.

The four biggest clinics, in terms of patient volume, are at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital — and they have the highest annual funding. The clinics at this location draw patients from the entire city, whereas most of the neighborhood clinics tend to attract patients who live nearby.

“We budget for our clinics, based on the number of patients we expect to see in the number of enrolled patients we have,” said Hali Hammer, director of ambulatory care at the Department of Public Health.

“Each clinic has its own sort of slightly different scope.”

The visualization below shows a comprehensive directory of all the health data we compiled, including clinic locations, their budgets and staffing resources, and the specialized care that some of the locations offer. 

Included in the directory is open data regarding health trends throughout the city. Click through to see your neighborhood’s trends when it comes to high-risk behaviors, preventative health measures, and self-reported wellbeing. 

There are other community clinics available to the public, such as the Mission Neighborhood Health Center. However, we included only Department of Public Health and HealthRIGHT 360 clinics, due to their collaboration over certain programs, as well as the availability and accessibility of public health data.

Rich neighborhoods do well, poor ones don’t

Some trends are not surprising: Richer neighborhoods like Noe Valley, Pacific Heights, the Marina and Sea Cliff have higher rates of healthy preventions: More health insurance coverage, more cancer and cholesterol screenings, and more visits to the dentist.

Those treatments are important, health experts said, because they can prevent more deadly, and more costly, diseases down the line.

“I have clients who seek preventative screenings and do very well, and some of those who cannot [will] develop a variety of health issues as a result,” said Ruth Linden, a patient advocate at Tree of Life Health Advocates. Even those who are insured often cannot access the most comprehensive screening, she added. “Health insurance doesn’t cover full body scans.”

In her experience working with patients, Linden noted some of the difficulties encountered in public health systems. “Services have to go through one’s primary care doctor. If you need specialty care, it has to be ordered and approved.”

“And if you’re not approved,” Linden continued, “well, then, you’re out of luck.”

Communities of color like Chinatown, the Tenderloin and Bayview, on the other hand, have higher rates of disease: High blood pressure, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and a host of other diseases were more prevalent across the southeast of San Francisco and north of Market neighborhoods.

High-risk behavior, like smoking, drinking and lack of sleep, were also more prevalent in these neighborhoods, as well as in parts of SoMa.

The Mission, for its part, is not particularly stricken by diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. These ailments that qualify as “high risk diseases,” meaning that those suffering from them are more at risk when contracting illnesses such as Covid-19 or influenza.

Some Mission tracts saw higher than average drinking, alongside asthma, depression, and obesity. And, though the number of risky diseases and behaviors in the neighborhood is low, some rates were significantly higher than other neighborhoods in San Francisco — like obesity, which was as much as 25 percent higher than the city’s norm.

The Mission, with between 6.8 percent and 14.6 percent of respondents reporting that they were in poor health, ranks medium to high on the city’s spectrum of health outcomes.

Alongside the city’s publicly run health clinics, there is HealthRIGHT 360, a state non-profit organization that is partially funded by private entities. It offers 14 programs in San Francisco at three main locations in Bayview and SoMa. 

The nonprofit offers a wide range of treatments. Besides primary care, its three main locations offer services such as therapy and wellness sessions, substance withdrawal aid, and more. 

Gary McCoy, vice president of policy and public affairs for HealthRIGHT 360, recommends that patients seeking attention should go to their Integrated Care Center at 1563 Mission St. “When folks go there, they have access to everything we have to offer.” 

Note: One of DPH’s 14 clinics, Community Health Programs for Youth, does not operate out of a fixed location. If we have left off any relevant information, please let us know.

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Gilare Zada is a Kurdish American, hailing from San Diego, California. She attended Stanford University, where she earned her bachelor's in English and her master's in journalism. During her time writing for the Stanford magazine and the Peninsula Press, she grew passionate about narrative form and function within the reporting sphere. At Mission Local, Gilare hopes to use her data skills to deliver human stories, as well as add Spanish to her list of four languages.

INTERN DATA REPORTER. Chuqin has two degrees in data journalism and she is passionate about making data more accessible to readers. Before arriving in the Mission, she covered small business and migratory birds in New York City while learning to code and design at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. She loves coastal cities, including SF and her hometown Ningbo.

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1 Comment

  1. what are the sample sizes / response rates? 1/5 binge drinking in a census tract seems very high – and scary

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