Maintaining a Public Health Agenda During Political Change

Maintaining a Public Health Agenda During Political ChangeLast week, I was honored to be on a panel with NYC’s Commissioner of Health, Dr. Thomas A. Farley, at a day-long discussion sponsored by the New York Academy of Medicine and the NYU Global Institute of Public Health entitled, “Maintaining a Public Health Agenda During Political Change”.   Joining me on the panel were Veronica White, Commissioner for NYC Department of Parks and Recreation; and the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene’s Associate Commissioner for External Affairs, Sam Miller, and Deputy Commissioner for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Susan Kansagra.

Dr. Tom Farley

Dr. Tom Farley

The day featured prominent officials and community stakeholders from New York City and Los Angeles involved in efforts to sustain health as a priority agenda item during upcoming elections.  Our panel spoke about the value of partnerships, how to build and sustain support for policies, and how to ensure public health remains a priority with the new mayoral administration in January.

The NYC Coalition believes every New Yorker has the right to breathe clean, smoke-free air where they live, work and play.  We focus on tobacco control policies and environmental change strategies that work to promote tobacco-free living, reduce smoking rates, create and expand smoke-free areas, and prevent youth from smoking, and protect the health of New Yorkers.

Susan Kansagra and Sam Miller

Susan Kansagra and Sam Miller

I was pleased to speak about how we worked to create more smoke-free housing options for New Yorkers, developed partnerships to make all our parks and beaches smoke-free, and continue to find innovative ways to protect our youth from tobacco marketing.  All the panelists agreed that we need hard data and research to show the need for policy intervention.  After we’ve demonstrated the need to address health issues, then we need to build support for evidence-based strategies that will work as a solution.

With a new mayoral administration coming in, it is vital that we continue to work with our partners in the community to ensure that key stakeholders know that reducing NYC smoking rates is still our number one goal.  We will make every effort to work with the incoming administration to redouble our efforts to reduce smoking rates.

Veronica White, Sheelah Feinberg, Dr. Tom Farley, Sam Miller and Susan Kansagra

Veronica White, Sheelah Feinberg, Dr. Tom Farley, Sam Miller and Susan Kansagra

In the past two years, NYC smoking rates have plateaued—not declined.  It’s not surprising, given the cuts in funding over the years to the NYS tobacco control program, including cessation resources.

Now more than ever we need to protect our City’s most vulnerable populations who are disproportionately affected by tobacco-related disease and death.  No matter who is elected mayor in November, we will work to ensure New York City remains an innovative public health leader that serves as a beacon for the rest of the country.