Improving US Public Health Care

Eye on New York:

Over $971 million has been awarded by America’s Department of Health and Human Services in an effort to enhance treatment and potentially eliminate a whole slew of public health threats.  This money will be distributed throughout each state, eight American territories, and four large metropolitan areas.   Included in this amount is over $30 million which will be designated specifically towards health care and public health preparedness in the New York region.

Around $352 million of this overall sum has been given to the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) cooperative agreement. Of that, $12,036,626 has been awarded to New York. From the close to $620 million designated to the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative agreement, $19,926,605, has been set aside for New York.

America’s Obesity Issue

Truthfully, one way of doing this is through preventive medicine and by averting disaster where possible. In other words – focusing on the obesity issue (incredibly prevalent throughout the United States of America) – losing weight and getting in shape.  As noted in a recent post, Mayor Bloomberg has been working on this for a while now.  The better shape people are in, the less medical care they will require.  It is likely that this was one of the reasons The Campaign to End Obesity was established, following its finding that the nation spends a staggering $168 billion in medical costs per annum on obesity-related healthcare.

Coping with Hazards

So that is at least something – in theory – that can be worked on.  The issue of hazards and emergencies is much harder to control and thus it seems justifiable that significant sums are now being poured into this.  Indeed, according to the assistant secretary for preparedness and response of the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Nicole Lurie, “having systems in place to provide better treatment for disaster survivors and improved public health for our communities also leads to better health outcomes on a day-to-day basis.”

Ultimately what needs to happen in New York’s health care industry – and indeed throughout the entire world – is for less money to be poured into issues that are within our control potentially (such as obesity) so that more can be designated for natural disasters and the like that we simply cannot control.

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.

New York Health Department Continues to Battle Obesity and Diabetes

New York City’s department of health recently released a new set of posters for its campaign against obesity and diabetes.

The new ads illustrate the growing portions of fast foods and sodas, and connect them to the dangerous health conditions. The ads show how the increase in soda and French fry intakes has made both obesity and diabetes much more common.

“Portions have grown. So has Type 2 diabetes, which can lead to amputations,” one poster reads, with an image of growing soda cups and an amputee in a wheelchair. This is only one of the city’s recent attempts to discourage super-sized servings of sugary drinks and fast, fatty and salty foods.

New York’s health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said “The portion sizes that are marketed are often much more than humans need.”

The American Beverage Association has responded to the campaign, claiming it oversimplifies the connection between the portion sizes and the health conditions.

“Portion control is indeed an important piece of the solution to obesity,” Stefan Friedman of the association said. “But instead of utilizing scare tactics, the beverage industry is offering real solutions like smaller portioned containers and calorie labels that show the number of calories in a full container, right up front, to help people choose products and sizes that are right for them and their families.”

Vitamin D Deficiency Common in Obese Teens

A recent study has revealed that obese teenagers need much more vitamin D than those who weigh significantly less. The National Institutes of Health in the U.S. have known for years that while vitamin D deficiency is common in all Americans, it is especially seen to affect overweight and obese adolescents.

“If obese adolescents only consumed the recommended 600 IUs (International Units), they would be in trouble,” Catherine Peterson, a study author, said in a statement. “It takes 4,000 IUs to raise their vitamin D status within a sufficient range… This indicates that physicians need to carefully evaluate the vitamin D status as their overweight and obese patients.”

New York Health Comissioner Dr. Thomas Farley Launches Ad Campaign

According to the New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, a new ad campaign will be hitting the streets of the Big Apple within the month. The ad aims to expose people to the dangers of drinking soda and other sugary drinks on a regular basis. Drinking one soda every day is like consuming a fifty pound bag of sugar annually. Drinks such as these can lead to diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, arthritis and even some forms of cancer.

According to Farley, sugary drinks are the most common source of added sugar to a child’s diet, increasing the obesity risk dramatically with each serving. The New York ad campaign will include a YouTube video showing how far a person would need to walk to burn off the calories from a single drink, as well as bilingual posters which will strengthen the message.