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.

NY Health Insurance: Impressive

For those in the New York area concerned about their health insurance, they need just look at the rest of the nation and feel quite confident and pleased with their lost.  It seems that New Yorkers are faring even better than the federal government vis-à-vis establishing a health insurance exchange. 

Indeed, according to America’s Department of Labor, it will only be March of this year that the deadline will be for employers to tell their employees about exchanges.  Ultimately what this means is that the government is simply not prepared yet to figure out the language employers should use.  As regional president for Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., David Bauer noted, “the Department of Health and Human Services is still promulgating regulations. It's very fluid, there are a lot of unanswered questions.”

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.

NYC’s Lead-Ridden Eggs


It seems that New Yorkers have new health concerns.  Research from an official state department has indicated that there are higher levels of lead in eggs from chickens from the city’s public neighborhood gardens that could be cause for concern, more than double of those bought in stores.  Unfortunately, this is very worrying since it has been found that even if ingested in minimal amounts, it can be harmful to humans.

Indeed, if Henry M. Spliethoff’s findings are anything to go by, then New Yorkers who consume eggs should really be concerned.  Spliethoff – a research scientist in the Bureau of Toxic Substance Assessment for the environmental health center of the State Health Department – tested 58 eggs from the chickens at New York City gardens.  Out of these he found 28 of them – nearly half – to have lead in amounts of 10 to 73 parts per billion.  One of these eggs had over 100 parts per billion.

The results of the study will be published later this year after Spliethoff completes additional analysis on soil and feed.  He is hoping to figure out how these might add to the lead content of the eggs. Meanwhile, research participants were told of the amount of lead he found and given tips on how to reduce lead exposure.

Still, even with these findings, the Department of Health is being cautious.  It claims that while lead poisoning is indeed a serious matter, the results of the study are subject to interpretation and thus urban gardeners should not be discouraged from eating nutrient-dense eggs unnecessarily.  Clearly more research and work needs to be done.

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.

Healthier Air for New Yorkers?

Although over 3 million New Yorkers live in places where the air is so bad it can be detrimental to their health, the American Lung Association’s (ALA) report “State of the Art 2012,” has found that there has been an improvement in quality of the air that New Yorkers are breathing.  Indeed, only 6 out of the 34 New York counties that were tested failed the air quality test.  A year earlier, this number was 16. Nonetheless, the report did suggest that there are still too many people in the city breathing in unhealthy air. 

The way the test was conducted was via color-coding: an orange was given for unhealthy air for those who are particularly sensitive; a red for anyone and a purple for air that was deemed extremely unhealthy.  Counties were also tested on ozone layers, annual particle pollution as well as short-term particle pollution levels.  Both Putnam and Westchester counties were graded F for ozone, despite the fact that both counties did encounter a slight improvement in air quality since 2011.  However, viewing Westchester as compared to other counties, it was deemed the dirtiest in the region for ozone and the third-dirties in the state.

For sure it is to be commended that there has been such an improvement in quality air.  But, as president of the American Lung Association in the Northeast Jeff Seyler said, “air pollution in our communities continues to be a major threat that cuts lives short, routinely sends people to the hospital and makes it hard to breathe.”  The issue is, there are protections from the Clean Air Act (approved in 1970 and amended in 1990) that must be enforced and a tightening of standards has to be implemented. 

Viewing the report in its entirety – vis-à-vis the whole nation – it seems that since it was first composed back in 1999, air quality is today at its cleanest.  Indeed, as the president and CEO of the ALA, Charles D. Connor pointed out, the report “shows that we’re making real and steady progress in cutting dangerous pollution from the air we breathe.”

Ultimately it has been proven, that the cleaner the air, the less disease.  As ALA’s project director, Janice Nolen said, “cleaning up air pollution has measurable public health benefits.  During the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, morning traffic levels decreased by 23 percent; the region’s ozone levels by 28 percent and pediatric asthma energy room visits dropped by approximately 42 percent.”  As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes, “these results suggest that efforts to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality also can help improve the respiratory health of a community.”

Hopefully therefore, although there is still much work to be done, for New Yorkers, their cleaner air will lead to reduced pollution and better health.

New York: Cutting Contraceptive Choices

In an effort to save money within Governor Cuomo’s plans, Medicaid is cutting the choices of contraceptives available for women living in the New York area.  What this means in reality, is that it is becoming a lot harder to obtain monthly or weekly contraceptives (such as the patch/NuvaRing) and instead move to daily pills. 

In theory this means that for those who want the name brand, they have to prove the other one “failed” for them: that they experienced nausea, bleeding or pregnancy.  However, in practice, since they will have to go through an appeals process to obtain their preferred contraceptive, the first two symptoms will probably be harder to prove – or at least nausea – since that is just based on the woman’s word.

Problems with the System

But this new attempt to save money comes with a lot of problems.  According to Cuomo’s deputy secretary for health, James Introne, New York Medicaid will ultimately suffer because if it’s not responding to its patient’s needs, it will no longer have the privilege of being one of the city’s contracted health plans.  The state of New York will simply have to intervene in such a case.  Ultimately, according to CEO of Family Planning Advocates, Albany, M. Tracey Brooks, contraceptives work best when the users are comfortable with them.  As well, for those accustomed to using monthly or weekly contraceptives, suddenly (and somewhat forcibly) moving to daily ones, will be a hard pill for them to remember to swallow on such a regular occurrence.  Nonetheless, it still has to be remembered that moving to generic contraceptives does lead to a huge cut in government costs, so it is a tough call.

Fighting Back

Naturally, protest groups are already cropping up against this measure. It is not just women using contraceptives who are going to be negatively impacted by Cuomo’s cost-cutting initiatives either. Those suffering from various chronic diseases including: mental illnesses, AIDs, diabetes and more will be targeted too. The problem is, say the protesters, that rather than qualified doctors and physicians making the call on what medication works best for their patient, Cuomo’s costs are turning the reigns over to health benefits managers.  It is extremely problematic for example, for a mentally-ill patient – who may have spent years balancing and finding the medical combination that works for them – to be suddenly told to move to a generic brand.  Should this happen, costs will ultimately be greater as these people on failed medication will require substantially more medical care.

Ultimately, while turning to generic drugs may initially seem like an easy idea to save money, the problems it comes with will probably ultimately lead to greater costs for the state of New York.


Does Acupuncture Help with IVF?

Recent analysis of past research has revealed that acupuncture may in fact up the chances of successful IVF treatment. The method has been used throughout Chinese history as a means to treat all sorts of health problems.

The first study to imply that the practice may affect pregnancy rates in women undergoing IVF took place in Germany ten years ago. Over the past decade, research implications have been relatively inconsistent.

Dr. Frederick Licciardi of the New York University Fertility Center’s mind and body program explained: “I counsel women that the literature is not convincing yet that (acupuncture) helps you get pregnant.”

He continued, saying that the center offers acupuncture sessions as well as other mind/body programs, like yoga, but that they focus mainly on easing stress and boosting ‘wellness,’ and not necessarily IVF success.

He believes that “if acupuncture helps you feel well, if it helps you get through the IVF, then great.”


7 Important Health Tests for Women

Obesity and weight loss are hot topics, and so many people associate health with exercise and a nutritious diet. While both are immeasurably important for your body, there are a few other health habits that every woman should incorporate into her lifestyle; health screenings.

Dr. Miriam Goldberg lists seven important health screenings, including heart tests, mammograms, pap smears, colonoscopies, thyroid tests, bone density tests and checks for melanoma.

“You really have to do it because if you catch it early, then you are saved,” she said.

Dr. Nieca Goldberg of the Tisch Center for Women’s Health stressed the importance of monitoring heart health. She said: “You need to get screened for heart disease and that means getting a blood pressure test at your doctor’s office and laboratory testing for cholesterol and glucose.”

She added: “Skin is the biggest organ of our body and we often take it for granted,” and so it is equally important to protect it and monitor its health as well.

Many mothers claim they have little time for such procedures. Goldberg replies by stating “It’s not an excuse to say I have no time because I have to take care of my kids and my family. The way to take care of your kids and your family is to go to the doctor and take care of yourself.”

Police Officers and Sleep Disorders

A recent survey has revealed that 40% of police officers in the U.S. and Canada suffer from sleep disorders. These conditions have been linked to a variety of health issues, as well as safety and performance on the job. Most of these disorders are left undiagnosed and untreated.