City sets ambitious new health agenda

Dr. Thomas Farley’s new three-year plan aims to cut in rates of smoking, drinking of sugary sodas, hospitalizations while urging outer borough residents to exercise more.
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley on Monday outlined a ten-step program and specific health goals the city hopes to reach in the next three years, part of a new public health agenda known as Take Care New York 2012. The city’s top doctor unveiled the ambitious new plan in an appearance with Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the City University of New York’s graduate center in Manhattan.

Taking a cue from the success of city anti-smoking efforts in reaching consumers, Dr. Farley plans to continue a campaign against “sugar-sweetened beverages,” though he did not specifically name soda as a culprit in rising obesity rates. Dr. Farley said he wants to reduce the number of people who drink at least one sugary beverage a day by 20%.

He also plans to step up the city’s anti-smoking efforts, aiming to reduce smoking rates among adults to 12% from 16.9% presently. The next goal in the anti-tobacco crusade is banning smoking at the city’s 1,700 parks, playgrounds and recreation facilities, as well as on its 14 miles of beaches. Mr. Farley said New Yorkers shouldn’t have to breathe second-hand smoke, even outside and said children shouldn’t even have to see people cheap cigarettes.

“Is this agenda realistic? You never know until you try,” said Dr. Farley, “That’s why we are laying it all out.” He added that budget estimates were not possible at this point. “Some of it like the anti-smoking we can do within our current resources; preventing teen pregnancy means supplying contraceptives and that might take more money. ”

Mr. Farley’s agenda includes some broad goals, including cutting city hospitalization rates to 1,650 per 100,000 people (from 2,000 currently) in cases where people have illnesses—such as asthma and diabetes—in which acute crises can be prevented. In addition the plan features some narrower public health objectives, including a further reduction in the spread of HIV by increasing reported condom use by gay men engaging in anal sex to 66% from 59% currently.

The agenda also sets several goals in mental health: upping treatment rates among people in psychological distress to 43% from 38% now, and reducing hospitalization for alcohol problems to 170 per 100,000 people, from 210 currently.

Though several of the goals would reduce hospital revenues by cutting the number of their admissions, the Greater New York Hospital Association applauded the program.


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