State Health Commissioner Highlights Efforts to Improve Health in Montgomery County

Recognizes St. Mary's Hospital for Vaccination of Newborns for Hepatitis B, Joins Officials at "Walk for Life" Trail to Promote Physical Activity

AMSTERDAM, N.Y. (May 26, 2010) – State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today recognized St. Mary's Hospital in Amsterdam for achieving excellence in maternal testing and vaccination of newborns for hepatitis B and joined local officials to open Montgomery County's newest "Walk for Life" trail to encourage physical activity.

"Across New York State, counties and communities are partnering to improve the health of residents," Commissioner Daines said. "As a result of the steps being taken by local medical and public health professionals in Amsterdam and Montgomery County, residents here have a better chance of avoiding obesity and chronic diseases like hepatitis B, heart disease, and diabetes."

Dr. Daines presented a Certificate of Excellence to St. Mary's Hospital for achieving a 98 percent hepatitis B vaccination rate for newborns, one of the highest rates in the State. In 2006, the administration of hepatitis B vaccine to infants within 12 hours of birth was established as a standard of care, a guideline endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

The hepatitis B virus can be passed from mother to infant during childbirth and can cause acute and chronic liver disease. When infants are vaccinated within 12 hours of birth, hepatitis B infections can be prevented.

Following the award presentation and a tour of St. Mary's Hospital, Dr. Daines helped open Montgomery County's "Walk for Life" trail in the World War I Veterans Memorial Park in Amsterdam. Creation of the trail was assisted by a $34,000 "Healthy Communities" grant from the State Health Department. This grant will help support county health department efforts to implement policy and environmental changes that increase residents' opportunities for physical activity and better nutrition as part of New York's Prevention Agenda Toward the Healthiest State.

The "Walk for Life" trail creates additional opportunities for community residents to increase their physically activity, thereby reducing their risk for obesity and related chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Obesity is now a leading public health threat in New York State, with 60 percent of adults and one-third of children obese or overweight.

Governor Paterson's obesity prevention strategy includes a proposed penny-per-ounce excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, which research has identified as a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. The tax is projected to reduce New Yorkers' consumption of sugary drinks by 15 percent, as consumers switch to healthier, lower-cost zero and low-calorie drinks.

In 2008 the State launched New York's Prevention Agenda Toward the Healthiest State, which established 10 statewide public health priorities and asked local health departments, hospitals and other community partners to work together at the community level to improve health. Priority areas are: access to quality health care; chronic disease prevention; community preparedness; a healthy environment; healthy mothers, babies and children; infectious disease prevention; mental health and substance abuse; physical activity and nutrition; and the prevention of tobacco use and unintentional injuries.