Health News in New York: Firemen’s Association and Mosquito Virus

firemenThe Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) just created a new Health & Wellness Committee. This aims to put in practice one of its key priorities. This is, as Robert McConville, President of FASNY articulated, “A Healthy Firefighter Is Everyone’s Fight.”

According to newly appointed committee Chairperson, Jacqueline Moline, MD, MSc, “FASNY’s Health & Wellness Committee, made up of experts in the medical field, will advise FASNY leadership on matters of health unique to firefighting, focusing on cancer, heart issues and mental health in the fire service. We are honored to have Dr. Jacqueline Moline helm this extremely important committee and are thrilled that she will be providing her expertise and sharing her experience and wisdom in our quest for healthy firefighters.”

In other news, doctors are being told to look out for symptoms of the Zika virus in those entering New York from the Caribbean, Central and South America and Mexico as it is being transmitted in those regions. While there haven’t as yet been any recorded cases in New York, it is still a concern as there is to date, no vaccine yet. Plus, most people who contract it don’t actually get it, but links with the virus and congenital birth defects have been found so it is crucial to prevent it from happening.

New York: Environment, Pollution, Disease

ratsNew York City has always been plagued with rats as it were. This is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, just two years ago the city’s health department made a staggering 95,000 rat inspections. But it’s not just the rats (gross as they are) that are causing a problem for New York residents. It’s actually what lives on them – the insects – that can infect residents with some of the most awful diseases including plague.

It might seem like plague is no longer an issue, given that the last time the US witnessed this was in 1925 on the other side of the States in Los Angeles. So it was the first time in close to a century that the amount of fleas and lice on NY rats were calculated. There have been reports published on how to deal with rat problems – that are actually people problems – in New York. Because when there are rats, there is disease and when there is disease, this impacts the health of the people.

But New Yorkers really shouldn’t feel so bad. They are not the only ones encountering these vermin. In fact, in a recent study of the 10 most rat-infested cities, New York only came in at Number 10 (with Deshnoke, North West India, being Number 1 and Chicago, Atlanta and other US cities coming in before New York).

Still, the estimate of NY rats is that it is 1:1 ratio to people. That’s not good.   But in 2013 the municipal authorities did attempt to undertake a way of sterilizing the rats. Still, the issue remains. And New Yorkers – understandably – are worried about how the rats and what they are carrying will impact pollution and ultimately their health.

eSafely Protecting Kids From Cyberbullying

According to a recent news article in NY1, cyberbullying has led to various teen suicide cases.

One thing parents and teachers can do is install an online filter.  eSafely protects children “against threat of cyber bullying by replacing harassing messages with friends icons in Facebook Chat.”  As well, it filters problematic Facebook images, avoiding exposure to adult content, guarding against the risk of a child inadvertently browsing an inappropriate site.  In addition, when eSafely is enabled, a page deemed inappropriate that is accessed will be loaded with child-friendly and suitable images.

Cyberbullying is a serious problem. It’s a way for bullies to attack and victimize kids.  Indeed, according to 14 year old Fouad Dakwar, these bullies “think they can say whatever they want because they have the protection of a screen so they end up saying really hurtful things.”

Parents who have daughters should be especially aware of the potential for cyberbully.  According to Dr. Marianne Chai, Medical Director of New York Center for Living, cyberbullying is more prevalent with girls.  In addition, the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey in 2011 reported that around 16 percent of high school students were the victims of cyberbullying.

With protection such as that offered by eSafely, much of this issue can be avoided.  eSafely’s browser add-on based parental control “keeps you safe where your web filter doesn’t.”

New NYC Health Commissioner

sodaLast week, Bill de Blasio appointed Dr. Mary Basset as Health Commissioner.  This was an interesting move given that she previously worked as deputy commissioner in the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene alongside Bloomberg.  However, it is in line with Blasio’s promise to “continue” the work on his predecessor’s health agenda.

Blasio said that in terms of NYC health, this was one of the few areas that he felt the same as Bloomberg (the one who put the ban on over-sized sodas).  And thus he explained, “it’s only fitting that we’ve reached out to someone who was one of the architects of these successful policies.”

New York Fitness: Trampolining

trampoliningNew York fitness is taking a new direction.  Instead of regular exercise, New Yorkers who want to get – and stay – in shape, are turning to trampoline yoga.  Bill Hedberg, Director of the Shen Tao Studio in the Flatiron District, is using trampolines to get his class in shape.

This New York fitness craze has hit the stars as well. Throughout the nation, this type of new fitness is taking off at the Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park (LA) and the Sky Zone (Buffalo), that witnessed Julianne Hough and Amanda Bynes respectively.  Alexandra Perez is behind this, being the founder of the Bari Studio, Tribeca.  He explained the benefits of the exercise:  “When you’re bouncing, at the very top of your movement, there’s zero gravity.  And at the very bottom of your movement, you weigh four times your weight, so it’s very different from anything else on the ground or in the water.” As well, “you produce a lot more endorphins when you’re bouncing. So it’s fun. Your lymphs produce a hormone that makes you happier. It’s the same reason kids love to jump on the bed.”

The Law: NYC Cigarette Purchase

cigarettesSince the fight to raise the age for the purchase of cigarettes from 18 to 21 started in New York City, lawmakers in other states may soon be following suit. This is particularly of interest now given Mayor Bloomberg’s other plan to make stores conceal cigarettes in their store as discussed in a recent post here.

Should this bill that was introduced last Friday become law, the state of New York would become a pioneer.  Other states have increased the age to 19, but not 21 (although a couple of towns have done that).

If passed, New York would become the first state to take this unprecedented move. Four states and some communities have increased the age to 19, and at least two towns have agreed to raise it to 21.  According to State Senator Diane Savino, “anything we can do to stop young people from starting is a step in the right direction.”  Given this, the proposal makes sense if the data assembled by City Council speaker Christine C. Quinn is anything to go by. She found that 80 percent of smokers begin the habit before they turn 21.  Thus if they intervene by adjusting the law, this could have a significant impact on the health of these youngsters.

The Center for Discovery’s Thanksgiving Farm

The Center for Discovery is a non-profit program working to provide disabled children and adults with education, health and residential services. Based in Harris, NY, the Center focuses on creative arts, recreational activities and healthy lifestyles to enrich the lives of its participants through personal accomplishment.

Patrick Dollard, Center for Discovery President and CEO, explains:

“The Center for Discovery is a unique place, and we brought together a lot of the human arts to care for people who are multiply disabled. We’re a place that we still imagine great possibilities for everybody. It’s really a connection to nature that is really essential, I think, for all our healing. Food became a really essential part of caring for folks, trying to create wellness and health, and not manage sickness.”

One of the Center’s projects is Thanksgiving Farm, an organic farm cared for by the Center’s residents. Here is a video that introduces the facility:

[vimeo w=500&h=281]

The Center for Discovery from The Center for Discovery on Vimeo.

Patients Medical and Daniel Amen Affiliation


A new affiliation has been reached between Patients Medical and Dr. Daniel Amen.  Patients Medical is a top integrative medical center in New York.  Dr. Daniel Amen is a brain imaging expert, psychiatrist and best-selling author.  The idea is that Dr. Amen will give advice to the Brain Wellness department at Patients Medical as well as lead programs that can diagnose and treat brain imbalances that result in poor health and reduced quality of life.

Dr. Amen boasts experience in overall wellness which is very suitable for the center’s holistic mission.  It will allow the center to expand its treatment scope to include brain health and hormone balancing.  This new affiliation is a natural next step from Vivian DeNise, an Integrative Physician and Certified Amen-Affiliated Education Doctor, who has already been working at the center, practicing Amen’s approach.  She has worked with patients who have a variety of disorders including ADHD, anxiety, depression, etc.  She thus believes that the new affiliation – together with the use of SPECT scans – will be a great way to more accurate diagnose patients and thereafter develop a customized treatment plan for them.

NY City Medical School Stands Out From The Pack

MSSMLogoEvery year it occurs that students who studied humanities want to go to medical school. When that happens, they often have to drown themselves in pre-requisites and play catch-up to the pre-med students.

This, however, is not always the case. There are a few nontraditional ways to get into medical school, including our own Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. It admits a quarter of its incoming students through a program that offers early admittance to humanities students. As Dr. Dennis Charney, the dean of the school, said, “It was designed to attract humanities majors to medicine who would bring a different perspective to education and medical practice.”

The program has been such a hit that they are now expanding it. By 2015, almost half of their incoming class will come through the new FlexMed program, which will take students from any educational background. These students won’t be required to take the MCAT, but they will take a year of biology or chemistry before applying and a few more science and math classes before graduating. And they have to keep up a 3.5 GPA.

The school plans to track these students through medical school and into their careers to see if there is a difference in the fields that they choose, the research they conduct or the leadership roles they take on.

A 2009 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute showed that medical schools could actually become more flexible by focusing less on specific courses and more on a broad range of scientific competency. Time will tell if Icahn will be leading the way in this regard.

Food Labels: Lacking in Potassium

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recently carried out a study on the labeling of packaged foods. According to the findings of these NYC health workers, the amount of potassium is generally amiss from most packaged food-labels.  This is problematic for those needing to ensure adequate potassium levels are maintained or for those with impaired kidneys who need to restrict their intake.

The recommendation by the Institute of Medicine vis-à-vis this powerful mineral is an intake of 4.7 grams daily for those not on a potassium-restrictive diet, reducing their risk for cardiovascular disease and death.  Indeed, as one researcher, Dr. Susan Kansagra pointed out, “diets high in potassium help decrease the negative impact of sodium, and so having a high ratio of potassium versus sodium in your diet is really important [and in general] Americans are not consuming enough potassium and are not meeting their dietary requirements.”

The study comprised an analysis of the labeling on 6,560 packaged foods covering 60+ different food categories, using nutritional information from a salt-reduced program.  Out of those products, only 500 contained potassium on their labels.  However, there was potassium data in over 50% of the products in five of the 61 categories: vegetable juice, seasoned processed potatoes, instant hot cereal, French toast/pancakes/waffles and sauces.

This issue is likely more connected to FDA requirements which currently lists potassium labeling as optional, rather than the companies themselves being amiss in their responsibilities.