Health Commissioner Unveils Opportunities for Better Health in New York
Long Island, November 1, 1996 -- New York's communities can significantly improve the health of their citizens during the next ten years through a coordinated community public health action plan proposed by the State Public Health Council and announced today by State Health Commissioner Barbara A. DeBuono, M.D. and State Senator Kemp Hannon. The plan, entitled "Communities Working Together for a Healthier New York," outlines twelve specific opportunities for New York State communities to improve public health in this state.
"New York has been at the forefront in promoting health and preventing disease," said Dr. DeBuono. "Through our commitment, we have achieved major reductions in diseases and premature deaths. Greater strides in improving public health are still attainable though, and communities, with the collaboration of all sectors of our society, can best achieve it."
"This report provides a comprehensive list of potential opportunities -- not mandates -- for communities to prioritize their public health needs. And it presents a guide for how the State Health Department and local health departments can help meet them," said Dr. DeBuono. "Working together, we can develop the partnerships that will have the greatest impact on the health of New Yorkers."
"Improving public health in New York State requires the collaboration of government, the private sector, community-based organizations, the media, schools and parents," said Senator Hannon. "With this report, we have provided a solid framework to ensure these groups work together -- with the end result being healthier Long Island communities in the near future."
Dr. DeBuono and Senator Hannon were joined by Suffolk County Health Commissioner and Chair of the Public Health Priorities Committee of the Public Health Council Dr. Mary E. Hibberd, and members of the Public Health Council at the Brentwood Family Health Center, in Brentwood, Long Island. The report released represents the work of the 19-member Public Health Priorities Committee, six regional workshops the committee held and the input of more than 1,400 New Yorkers that participated in the process.
"I am grateful to the Governor's Public Health Council and Dr. DeBuono for the challenge and responsibility of participating in the development of this report," said Dr. Hibberd, the Chair of the Public Health Priorities Committee. "The enthusiasm and sense of commitment generated within the Committee and through statewide workshops indicate a strong momentum for moving on to real and lasting improvement in the health of all New Yorkers."
The 12 opportunities for action to improve the public health in a community each focus on the underlying causes of disease, include multi-pronged strategies to combat the problems involving all sectors of society, and present a quantifiable measurement of success by the year 2006. They include:
Access to and Delivery of Health Care
Improving and sustaining access to high-quality continuous primary health care and treatment services. The hallmarks of success will be prevention, early intervention and the continuity of care through a "medical home" for every New Yorker.
Lack of adequate general education is widely recognized as a factor in health. To combat this, the plan calls for increasing high school completion rates from 80.9 percent to at least 90 percent and increasing the rate of General Education Development credentials from 1.2 percent to 1.4 percent.
New York's rate of infant mortality exceeds the national average, partly because of our high rate of low birthweight babies. The report calls for combatting this problem by reducing the percent of low birthweight babies from 7.7 percent to no more than 5.5 percent.
It is widely recognized that the initiation or continuation of many physical health risk behaviors (i.e. substance abuse, violence) is often related to the emotional and mental health of an individual. The report recommends actions to reduce the rate of hospitalizations due to self-inflicted injuries to persons aged 10 and older from 62.5 per 100,000 to no more than 50 per 100,000.
Being overweight is strongly associated with several chronic diseases and debilitating conditions. The report presents strategies to reduce the prevalence of overweight people from 27 percent to no more than 20 percent among adults 18 and over; and, from 34.5 percent to 15 percent for second and fifth grade school children.
In the United States, as many as 300,000 chronic-disease related deaths are attributable to physical inactivity and inappropriate diet. The report details a plan to increase the percentage of New Yorkers participating in regular and sustained physical activity from 14.8 percent of adults over 18 to at least 30 percent; and, for young people between the ages of 12 and 21, to increase their rate by 20 percent.
Safe and Healthy Work Environment
While the worksite can be the source of adverse exposures affecting health, it also provides a tremendous opportunity to initiate a broad range of wellness activities. The Council's plan calls for reducing the incidence of work-related illness, injury and death in every workplace by at least 20 percent and decreasing by at least 20 percent the total absence from work due to illness.
Abuse of alcohol and other drugs leads to multiple acute and chronic adverse health outcomes. The report recommends a plan to more than halve the amount of binge drinking among adults 18 and over; reduce by at least 50 percent the amount of students who use alcohol heavily or use marijuana and other drugs; cut the amount of pregnant women who report drinking during pregnancy by half; and, reduce the neo-natal drug-related discharge rate from 10.6 per 1,000 to no more than six per 1,000.
Tobacco causes 30 percent of all cancer deaths, 82 percent of deaths from pulmonary disease and 21 percent of deaths from chronic heart disease. The Council's report recommends strategies to reduce tobacco use from 21 percent of adults 18 and over to no more than 15 percent; to reduce the prevalence of daily smoking among adolescents from 17 percent to no more than 10 percent; and, to reduce the prevalence of smoking among pregnant women from 19.5 percent to no more than 10 percent.
The Council states in the report that, "By nearly every measure, unintentional injury ranks as one of our most pressing health needs." To combat this problem, the Council lays out a strategy to combat the problem and looks to reduce the incidence of unintentional injury among children from 487 per 100,000 to 385 per 100,000; among young adults from 597 per 100,000 to 475 per 100,000; and, for seniors 65 and older from 2,024 per 100,000 to 1,615 per 100,000.
Violent and Abusive Behavior
While the crime rate is undoubtedly been lowered, violence continues to cause nearly one-half of all injury deaths. The Council's strategy calls for reducing homicide and assault rates and seeks to reduce the rate of domestic violence, abuse and neglect cases by approximately one-half.
Adolescent sexual activity can have life-changing or life-threatening consequences. To address this problem the Council recommends strategies for reducing the adolescent pregnancy rate from 3.2 per 1,000 girls aged 10 -14 to no more than 2 per 1,000; and, for girls aged 15-17, reducing the rate from 65.6 per 1,000 girls to no more than 50.
"The priorities report shows clearly that we can make significant improvement in public health in areas where there are effective interventions that involve the entire community and the individual," said Dr. DeBuono. "Nowhere is that more evident than here in Suffolk County, where a mentoring program for expectant mothers has combined the efforts of all sectors of society to reduce infant mortality."
An infant mortality study begun in 1990 showed a disproportionately high rate of death to babies born to minority mothers. The study showed that mothers were often isolated and unaware of resources. Through a combined effort of the Department of Health Services, not-for-profit and community agencies, schools, churches, the media and individual volunteers programs were created such as the Perinatal Coalition's Mentoring Mothers Program, which brings in volunteers from the community, educates them and links them to pregnant women to help them access the resources they need. Through this program and others the infant mortality rates among African-American babies have been reduced dramatically in Suffolk County.
"We look forward to Suffolk County taking the lead in embracing the opportunities discussed in this report and working with the community to share solutions to these important public health challenges," said Dr. DeBuono.
11/04/96-136 OPAContact: Robert Hinckley, Director, Public Affairs (518) 474-7354
New York State Department of Health Posted 11/04/96