A Telephone Survey Reveals Important Findings About Obesity in New York State

DASHNY HOMEPAGE LATEST NEWS, Prevent Chronic Disease 0 Comments

By Amanda Li, B.A., Junior Policy Associate

An annual telephone survey administered statewide by the New York State Department of Health showed the following key findings:

  • 25% of adults in the state are obese.
  • An additional 34.5% of the state’s adults are overweight.
  • Obesity rates are the highest among adults who are black (30.9%), Hispanic (29.3%), earn household income below $50,000 a year (28.9%), do not have a college degree (28.6%), have a disability (37.2%), and who live outside of the city (26.9%).

This survey is conducted under the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which helps gather data on the risk factors, behaviors, and use of prevention-based services associated with the major causes of disease, injury, disability and death across the adult civilian population.  Unfortunately, obesity is now ranked as the #2 cause of preventable mortality in America, just barely behind tobacco. This is because obesity is associated with life-threatening conditions like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancers, stroke, and arthritis.

Recognizing the strong association between obesity and chronic diseases, New York State’s Prevention Agenda 2013-2018 has made reducing obesity in both adults and children a priority. One goal the state hopes to achieve is to “Create community environments that promote and support healthy food and beverage choices and physical activity.”

DASH-NY hopes to leverage its 2017 policy priorities to help achieve this goal by:

  • Increasing access to healthy food for all through the investment of $15 million in the Healthy Food and Healthy Communities Fund and $3 million in the Healthy Corner Store Initiative.
  • Supporting “Safe Routes to All” by creating policies and funding opportunities that promote safe, accessible routes to valuable community resources.
  • Promoting policies mandating that food and beverages bought using government funds meet nutrition standards.
  • Advocating for the shared use of school facilities.

Additionally, the Advancing Prevention Project also aims to achieve this goal by:

According to the New York State Prevention Agenda Dashboard and BRFSS survey data, we have not yet met any of our 2018 Prevention Agenda goals around reducing obesity. However, let’s use this data as motivation to continue pushing the needle on reducing obesity in New York State.


Amidst the Closing of Supermarkets, a Bill Provides Hope

DASHNY Advocacy & Policy, Food Policy, HOMEPAGE LATEST NEWS, Prevent Chronic Disease 0 Comments

By Amanda Li, B.A., Junior Policy Associate

In September 2016, Promoting Prevention published a blog post about the closing of City Fresh, a local supermarket in East Harlem. Just a few weeks later, Promoting Prevention published yet another blog post that touched upon the widespread closing of supermarkets throughout New York City. By providing access to fresh, affordable produce, supermarkets play such an important role in preventing chronic disease and promoting community health. Therefore, the closing of supermarkets throughout our New York communities is an issue that Promoting Prevention takes very seriously.

This is why Promoting Prevention sees potential in Local Law Int 1472-2017: Exempting certain grocery stores from the commercial rent tax. This bill, sponsored by Corey D. Johnson, Margaret S. Chin, and Stephen T. Levin, would grant commercial rent tax exemptions to affordable supermarkets. According to Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer, the city’s commercial rent tax “puts an unfair, regressive burden on businesses in some of the city’s most expensive neighborhoods, where there is immense upward pressure on commercial storefront rents.” Under this bill, grocery stores that are affordable, accept SNAP benefits, and have retail space totaling over 3,500 square feet, would be eligible for a commercial rent tax exemption. Moreover, this bill requires that at least 500 square feet of retail space be dedicated exclusively to selling fresh produce. This bill not only prevents more grocery stores from closing down, but it would also encourage healthier retail practices.

Promoting the accessibility and affordability of fresh, healthy produce is very important to Promoting Prevention. We support this bill and look forward to seeing where it will take us.

The Future of Mental Health is Unclear

DASHNY Advocacy & Policy, HOMEPAGE LATEST NEWS, Prevent Substance Abuse, Promote Mental Health 0 Comments

By Amanda Li, B.A., Junior Policy Associate

Mental disorders and substance abuse have widespread, disabling burdens on our health and communities. Over 20% of people in New York suffer from mental illness-related symptoms every year, and 1 in every 10 people experience symptoms severe enough to hinder their day-to-day functioning. Moreover, across New York State, nearly 2 million people are undergoing substance abuse issues. Mental illness and substance abuse can have detrimental effects on a person’s health and wellbeing, increasing risks across multiple dimensions including unemployment, school failure, homelessness, and even mortality—opioid overdoses alone are responsible for 33,091 deaths in the U.S. during 2015.

Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), mental health and substance abuse-related services were extremely underfunded. Along with the stigma associated with mental disorders and drug use, limitations on insurance coverage also served as a barrier to getting needed care. Not only did the ACA greatly expand healthcare coverage as a whole, but it also provided a significant expansion of coverage for mental health and substance abuse. Under the ACA, insurance plans are required to cover services related to mental health and substance abuse, as well as services for habilitation and rehabilitation that assist people who suffer from behavioral health issues. Additionally, a majority of health insurance plans now provide coverage for preventive services, including depression screenings and behavioral assessments, as a result of the ACA. Overall, the ACA has expanded benefits for mental health and substance abuse to 62 million people in the U.S.

Unfortunately, we are currently at risk of losing the ACA. A repeal of the law would not only potentially deprive 20 million people of health insurance, but it could also dissipate the newfound coverage for mental health under the law. It could leave millions of people having to choose between feeding themselves or getting necessary mental health care.

The Advancing Prevention Project recognizes the severe health implications of mental illness and drug use, and the need to effectively address them. During this time when the future of healthcare in America is unclear, it is important that we speak up and advocate for the crucial services that the ACA provides for our health and for the wellbeing of our communities.


On the Road to Uber in Upstate New York

DASHNY Advocacy & Policy, Economic and Community Development, Environment, HOMEPAGE LATEST NEWS 0 Comments

By Amanda Li, B.A., Junior Policy Associate

The idea of Uber was born on a snowy night in 2008, when Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp struggled to get a cab. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had reliable transportation available at the push of a button?

Uber has since spread to over 530 cities across the globe, transforming the way that urban transportation works. As Uber has grown in popularity, other ride-hailing apps like Lyft, Gett, Juno, and Curb have joined the rapidly expanding industry.

By providing affordable, reliable transportation, ride-hailing apps make the cities that they operate in more accessible. They help make trips to the airport, park, grocery store, doctor’s office and any other location you need to go, quick, easy, safe, and cheap. Not only do ride-hailing apps help connect people to where they need to be, but they also help boost local economies, creating jobs and increasing business for the ride-hailing industry overall.

Despite their rapid growth in cities worldwide over the last few years, the benefits of ride-hailing apps have not yet reached less urban communities, like those in upstate New York. In areas of New York with limited public transit, accessibility to places not within walking distance can be a major issue with significant health implications for those who cannot drive. For instance, a person without reliable means of getting to the doctor’s office may be more hesitant to schedule needed appointments or regular check-ups. Also, a lack of affordable transportation to grocery stores or farmers markets can contribute to poor diets lacking in healthy produce. Ride-hailing apps can potentially provide a solution.

Unfortunately, New York’s insurance laws have made it difficult for ride-hailing apps to expand beyond New York City. For over a year, Uber and Lyft have been in gridlock with insurance companies and taxi companies over a law to allow ride-hailing app companies to expand beyond NYC. During the last half of 2016, Uber and Lyft spent $1.8 million on lobbying expenses to unsuccessfully persuade the Legislature to pass the bill for ride-hailing apps in upstate New York.

But we may finally be seeing a long-awaited breakthrough in the gridlock. On Monday February 6, 2017, New York’s Senate voted to allow ride-hailing apps like Uber to operate across the entire state of New York. Though this is major step towards expanding ride-hailing apps across the state, there is still a hurdle to overcome. The bill does not yet have an Assembly sponsor, and there are important differences between the Senate’s bill and Cuomo’s proposal: an agreement must be reached before March 31st, the deadline for the state budget to be finalized.

Having access to ride-hailing apps like Uber helps people access places that are important for a happy, healthy life. Whether city, suburban, or rural, affordable and reliable transportation plays an important role in connecting communities and promoting well-being. DASH-NY hopes that the state will move towards bringing more transportation options to all communities across New York.


The American Antibiotics Resistance Crisis: Experts in Agriculture and Health Talk Solutions

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Academy hosts forum on taming a growing, national health threat

With resistance to antibiotics prevalent in every country across the globe and more than 2 million people infected annually with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the United States alone, antibiotic resistance is posing significant risks to human health. In fact, the World Health Organization classifies it as “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development today.

 What is causing this major health challenge?

Most people assume that antibiotic resistance develops because of the misuse of antibiotics in the treatment of infections. That’s correct, but it’s just a small part of the story. Approximately 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are deployed in food production. 

Antibiotics are regularly used by industrial farms in the raising of livestock, fish and poultry. By feeding antibiotics to animals, farms can stimulate quicker growth as well as compensate for exposing animals to unclean environments. Although economically beneficial for the farms, this practice contributes greatly to the antibiotic resistance in humans who consume poultry, meat and fish.

The dangers of antibiotic resistance are real and all around us, but so are the increasing efforts to fight it. In recognition of the health risks that come with using antibiotics in agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has implemented a new policy that tightens the rules for antibiotic use in livestock. This policy prohibits the use of medically important antibiotics to speed the growth of healthy animals.

The FDA now requires antibiotic prescriptions given to animals that will be used for food to be administered only with a veterinarian’s approval and supervision. Additionally, the New York State Department of Health has created the NYS Antimicrobial Resistance Prevention and Control Task Force, a collaboration across local, state and federal agencies. The aim of this task force is to develop recommendations and statewide strategies to fight antimicrobial resistance within New York State. The Academy works to inform policy makers about the need and benefits of policy changes related to this issue through its work with organizations such as Health Care Without Harm and its Designing a Strong and Healthy New York (DASH-NY) initiative.

Stopping increasing antibiotic resistance means working with communities, physicians, farmers, the food industry and policy makers to find new ways to address this growing health threat. That’s why leading activists and experts came together at the Academy, on February 7, 2017, to explain the potential scope of the epidemic and make recommendations about how to contain it.

Panel moderator Kimberly Libman, PhD, MPH, the Director for Prevention and Community Development at the New York Academy of Medicine’s Center for Health Policy and Programs, started off the panel by stunning the audience with a video that demonstrates bacteria’s ability to become resistant to antibiotics at extremely high doses in a mere 11 days. After following the video with the shocking idea that antibiotic resistance is currently projected to become a top killer worldwide—causing even more deaths than cancer—by 2050, Libman and her co-panelists talked solutions.

Jennifer Obadia, PhD, the Eastern U.S. Regional Director for Health Care Without Harm; Ken Jaffe, MD, a former family physician who raises grass-fed beef in the Catskill region of New York; and Saul Hymes, MD, who is a physician at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital and serves on the New York State Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance, suggested a three-point approach. First, they reminded us that as patients, each of us can play a role by questioning our doctors about antibiotic prescriptions for ourselves and our children to make sure they are absolutely necessary. Antibiotics do not kill viruses, for example, though they are often prescribed for the common cold.

Addressing other farmers, Jaffe pointed out that farmers should never use antibiotics to make animals grow larger. They should only be given when an animal is sick. Lastly, the panelists made a public call to action for all institutions that buy and serve food to the public—hospitals, schools, cultural organizations and others—to only purchase meat, poultry and fish that has been raised without antibiotic growth therapy. Advocating for this approach to food procurement is also a key part DASH-NY’s work. If followed, the panelist’s recommendations would have a tremendous impact on protecting the public’s health in urban and rural communities. 

Originally posted on 1/25/2017 and updated on 2/15/2017 to reflect the panel’s recommendations.