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.

The Aging Population and Health Care Options

Senior Health Care
Senior Health Care on the Rise

In New York, New Jersey, and the greater metropolitan area, there are many choices when it comes to senior health care programs. Among these choices are Dry Harbor; Home Instead Senior Care, founded by Paul and Lori Hogan in 1994; and BrightStar, founded by J.D. and Shelly Sun in 2002.

All these companies are focused on addressing many of the issues arising from the fact that the number of seniors as a percentage of the population is steadily growing, thus bringing the issues of health care to the forefront of society’s concerns.

In the past when a senior did not have family to care for them their only option was to live and be cared for in a nursing home if living independently was impossible. Today this is far from the reality. Franchises such as BrightStar and Home Instead are available to help seniors, who are not ill and can live on their own, but just need a bit of assistance with cooking, shopping, cleaning, taking meds or the like. And there are full-service health care programs such as the Dry Harbor Nursing Home, which offers services such as skilled rehabilitation as well as long-term care and assisted living care.

With so many options available today to the aging population, which is living longer and in better health, it pays to research well what health care suits each individual best.

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.

Health, Secrets & The Presidency

In the world of instant gratification, social media and know-all press, it is fascinating to look back at times that were so different. Today, a President would have a very difficult time keeping anything from the press and the public. But this was not the case with President Glover Cleveland in 1893.

President Cleveland, discovering that he had oral cancer, managed to keep this from the public. In June of 1893, Cleveland was told that his malignancy would require the removal of his left upper jawbone immediately. Understandably, he did not want to scare the public that had just lived through Grant’s death from the same cancer, and so he kept it from the public.

On July 1, 1893, he had the surgery and then stayed in his summer home for five weeks to heal. He had an artificial jaw prosthesis and returned to the yacht for a second round of surgery. He eventually returned to Washington and continued with his Presidency.

On the one year anniversary of his surgery, he sent a secret letter to his surgeon, Dr. Joseph D. Bryant. Housed at the Shapell Manuscript Foundation, the letter reads:

Perhaps it has not occurred to you that this is rather an interesting anniversary. I don’t know that it ought to occur to you with the same depth of feeling that it does to me. At any rate I want to remind you that you and I were on the Oneida one year ago today – both feeling very different from what we do today and I guess you the most anxious of the two… I must tell you another coincidence. Dr. Keen called on me and examined me with the greatest satisfaction… He never tires of speaking of the splendor and success of your job. He has really made me think that my very dear medical friend is a good deal of a chap. But I only want to remind you of the anniversary…

President Cleveland’s cancer never returned and he died 14 years later of heart failure. No one ever spoke of the situation until 1917.

Cleveland died fourteen years later of heart failure. His cancer never returned, and no one involved in its removal, spoke a word of it until 1917.

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.”

Harvey Finkelstein MD Provides Help with Fibromyalgia


Fibromyalgia is an often-misunderstood disorder that includes widespread musculoskeletal pain. Patients often experience fatigue, sleep loss, memory issues and mood swings. Symptoms typically appear after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or some type of significant psychological stress and there is often no single triggering event. Rather, symptoms appear gradually.

Before a doctor’s appoint to see a pain specialist like Harvey Finkelstein MD about your pain, there are many things you should do. You should keep a detailed log of your symptoms and their frequency. Bring information about your medical problems of your family members. Provide information about medications you take and dietary supplements you use. And bring a list of questions to ask the doctor.

During a doctor’s appointment, your doctor will do an exam and will ask many questions. In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) established two criteria for diagnosing fibromyalgia. The widespread pain needs to last for at least three months and the patient must exhibit at least 11 positive tender points out of a possible 18. Today, doctors like Harvey Finkelstein MD evaluate if the pain has been lasting for at least three months and if there seem to be no other underlying explanations for the pain.

Certainly, there are many medications and therapies for patients with fibromyalgia. A doctor like Harvey Finkelstein MD may offer analgesics, antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs; they make recommend alternative therapies such as acupuncture, hydrotherapy and others. They may also recommend talking with a therapist and joining a support group to receive assistance.

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.”

NY Benefit for the Prostate Cancer Foundation

Antonio Villaraigosa, Michael Milken, Kim Honig, guest, and former NY Governor David Patterson. (Photo: Rob Rich/
Antonio Villaraigosa, Michael Milken, Kim Honig, guest, and former NY Governor David Patterson. (Photo: Rob Rich/

At a fundraising event held last week for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the Rydell High School Sock Hop bopped the night away. Everyone was getting into the 1950s spirit of the evening, with women dressed in lycra dancing among an Elvis impersonator. Among the performers were Hall and Oates. The evening was catered by David Burke and hosted by Mike and Lori Milken among others. Attendees and supporters included: Kim Honig, Dick Merkin, Richard and Karen LeFrak, Julia and David Koch.

Michael Milken began the foundation – a spin off of CaP Cure – two decades ago when he himself was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He explains:

“We put on a march in 1998 for half a million people. We got the support of President Clinton, the Senate and the House to double the NIH and NCI budgets. We’ve had an increase of $200 billion in financing of medical research in our country, and so we’re on the verge of eliminating a lot of diseases as a cause of death. Since we started the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the death rate has fallen by 50%.”

Cancer hits everyone at some time, either directly or within the family. Indeed, as Milken says: “There isn’t a family in this country that’s not affected. And when we eliminate cancer as a cause of death and it becomes a chronic disease in 2017, I’m taking a vacation.”

The event was also attended by former Governor of New York David Paterson who said that he had been recording an afternoon radio drive show with Curtis Sliwa, a survivor of prostate cancer who, “let [him] cut out early from the Friday show!”

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.