Public Health Emergency Sunday


Andrew Cuomo recently declared a public health emergency Sunday.  With this, pharmacists were told they could administer the flu vaccination to additional people, most notably to patients between the ages of 6 months and 18-years-old.  (Ordinarily they are given only to those who are over 18 by pharmacists).  It has been declared the worst outbreak of flu in New York in a number of years, for sure at least since 2009.  Indeed, throughout the nation, the flu has been reported to have reached “epidemic proportions,” especially since it started so early this year.  According to a report put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ninety percent of American regions reported an increase in the level of flu, with 20 childhood fatalities.

As a result of what has been happening, state officials have been instructed by the governor to “marshal all needed resources to address this public health emergency and remove all barriers to ensure that all New Yorkers – children and adults alike – have access to critically needed flu vaccines.”  In addition, people who have not yet gotten their flu shots are now being encouraged to do so as the cases of reported influenza in NYC are continuing to rise.

New York: Health Impacts of Fracking

As part of a review on the natural gas drilling process, New York state officials are considering undertaking an investigation of the possible public health effects of hydraulic fracturing – fracking.  The process of fracking is the extraction of natural gas from shale rock layers from the ground.  It enables the production of natural gas extraction in shale plays.  Other technologies cannot do this.  However, New York has an anti-fracking movement which is fighting against this, for the health and safety of its residents.

In an attempt to battle this issue, various social environmental groups recently met up with top New York State Department of Health officials and the Department of Environmental Conservation to discuss its potentially negative health impacts.  These include: water contamination from spills; air pollution and possible accidents resulting from increased truck traffic.  The environmentalists are pushing for an independent health assessment from medical experts before regulations are finalized and the go-ahead is given to start drilling.

State Gov. Andrew Cuomo has encountered a tremendous amount of pressure on banning fracking altogether, or at least until adequate research is done. The problem is, those who are in favor of it argue that it makes mining for natural gas in dense shale more economically viable.  Indeed, hydrofracking uses much more water than conventional drilling; utilizes a “slick water” mixture pumped into the shale to fracture the rock and release the gas.  But the bad news is that there can be severe negative impacts on the environment from the drilling: long-term toxicity; forestland loss; and more.  To counter this, the only plan the state of New York has is to put up a surveillance system monitoring health impacts when fracking takes place. This could be due to the fact that various federal and state officials in the region insist the practice is safe when undertaken in the correct way.  It is only when there are faulty wells that pollution results.  Indeed, as the city’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg pointed out, natural gas is better, at least, environmentally speaking.

But the whole fracking issue spills over into a variety of other areas.  That is where the Sewage Pollution  Right to Know Act comes in. Environmentalists support this since it seeks more disclosure on sewage levels flowing into the state’s waterways.  The data provided from this can be used for swimming, boating and other public recreational activities, which again is crucial to the health of New Yorkers and those visiting the state.


NY Eateries Getting Healthier?

Already last month New York witnessed a ban on serving trans fats in food in its eateries, but now it seems Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to take it a step further.  With his proposal to ban large-size (16 ounces, approximately half a liter), sugary sodas in movie theaters, restaurants, vending carts and delis in the New York area, Bloomberg has caused a real stir.  However, according to NY city officials, it seems that this new proposed ban may take effect as early as March 2013.

The Joke’s on Bloomberg

Alongside the criticism and attack Bloomberg has been receiving for his proposal, there have been some comics using it as material as well.  On the “Daily Show,” Jon Stewart weighed in with a segment he called “Drink Differently.”  While Stewart agrees that drinking less soda is healthier, he points out that just because cups are smaller, it won’t change the eating habits of a city. He added in jest, “it combines the draconian government overreach people love with the probable lack of results they expect!”

Battling Obesity

In theory, Bloomberg’s rationale behind the proposal makes a lot of sense.  He explained, “I look across this country, and people are obese, and everybody wrings their hands, and nobody’s willing to do something about it.  I would criticize the federal government for not doing anything.  I would criticize the state governments for not doing anything, but in the end, it's the cities that do things.”

In a way, Bloomberg’s proposal to try to get New Yorkers healthier shouldn’t come as too much as a surprise since it is one in a long list of public health initiatives he has been in charge of promoting.  To date, he has: banned smoking in public bars and eateries; banned artificial trans fats in foods being served in the public sphere; required calorie counts to be posted at fast-food outlets and has been head of a campaign to cut salt in packaged foods and restaurants. So clearly, Bloomberg as Mayor of New York is attempting to make his citizens healthier food and beverage choices in an attempt to attack the city’s obesity issue.  Ultimately, Bloomberg believes obesity to be “the single biggest public health issue in the country.”  And he’s trying to do something to battle it.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi Fight Back

But Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co. feel like it’s an attack on their businesses and are not prepared to take this lying down, although Bloomberg insisted it wasn’t, it was rather aimed at “target[ing] the consumer.” In  a recent statement, Coca-Cola said, “New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this.  They can make their own choices about beverages they purchase.” And NY State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was concerned that this move would lead New York to becoming “too close to Big Brother.”  However, none of this has deterred Bloomberg who expects Democrat NY Governor Andrew Cuomo to support his plan.

Whatever happens, it does seem that Bloomberg is ultimately looking out for the best of health for New Yorkers.