Wednesday, October 01, 2014

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City Health Commissioner Reflects On Bloomberg Administration Policies

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New York City Health Commissioner Tom Farley says New Yorkers are much healthier as a result of policies put into place over the past decade, but admits there's still more work to be done. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

With less than 100 days left of the Bloomberg administration, the city Health Department has released a progress report on its most recent health agenda, Take Care New York 2012.

NY1 sat down with Commissioner Thomas Farley, who believes that New Yorkers will, in hindsight, appreciate what he calls a decade of creative health policy.

"In my time that I've been here as health commissioner, no one has yet come up to me and said, 'Please put secondhand smoke back into my restaurant,'" Farley said. "No one has yet said to me, 'Please put trans fat back in my food.'"

While a judge ruled that the city could not control portion sizes of sugary drinks, Farley said that even the threat of that policy has reduced consumption by 20 percent, with the hope that adult obesity rates will follow the downward trend of childhood obesity.

"We've had ads on television. We've had a lot of publicity around our policies. It's working," Farley said. "New Yorkers are recognizing these as being risky and are drinking less."

The HIV/AIDS death rate has decreased, along with the gap of death rates between whites and blacks. Teen pregnancy rates have dropped 30 percent in the past decade. Life expectancy has gone up. Fewer are dying from cardiovascular disease.

One area Farley says still needs work is the number of New Yorkers who are still smoking.

"It is clear that we're not having a continued decline in the last couple of years, and it has us very worried," Farley said.

Farley said they're changing strategy to target those who may smoke occasionally and don't consider themselves smokers.

"It may be that our advertising that we're showing people that warns about the risk of smoking goes past them," Farley said. "They think, 'That doesn't apply to me.' So we may need to change our messaging around that."

When asked about his plans in January, when the new administration takes over, Farley said he honestly doesn't know. He said he plans to keep working on improving the health of New Yorkers until his job ends on December 31.

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