Commissioner Daines Recognizes Local Health Department Efforts to Implement State's Prevention Agenda

Cites Slight Decline in Youth Smoking, but Obesity Prevalence on Rise

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 2, 2010) - State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today cited progress in implementing the State's Prevention Agenda Toward the Healthiest State, in part through the efforts of local health departments and their community partners.

"Prevention is at the heart of efforts by county health departments across the state to protect and improve the health of New Yorkers where they live," said Commissioner Daines. "We owe them a debt of gratitude for work done largely out of public view to protect drinking water and food supplies, prevent infectious and chronic diseases, increase access to care, and promote healthy lifestyles."

Dr. Daines made his comments at a meeting of the New York State Association of County Health Officials (NYSACHO) in Albany

In 2008 the State Department of Health (DOH) established the Prevention Agenda that identified priority areas for community action, with specific goals to be achieved in each priority area by 2013. Overview of Prevention Agenda available here: http://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/prevention_agenda/, Data on goals available here: http://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/prevention_agenda/indicator_map.htm

Recent analysis indicates the State is making slight improvement or holding steady on some of the Prevention Agenda goals, but data also indicates additional efforts are needed.

Dr. Daines noted that the State is holding smoking rates level among adults and seeing a slight decline in youth smoking. The 2013 goal for adult smoking is to reduce smoking to no more than 12 percent of adults. The current rate of adult smoking is 18 percent, stable from 18.2 percent in 2006. The 2013 goal for smoking among high school students is to reduce smoking to no more than 10 percent. The 2009 rate of smoking among high school students is 14.8 percent, down from 16.3 percent in 2006.

"While we have made some slight progress in reducing youth smoking, we are not anywhere close to achieving our goal. We must continue strong efforts to counter the well-financed marketing and advertising of the tobacco industry," said Dr. Daines.

Dr. Daines said the State is moving backwards on another Prevention Agenda priority -- reducing the prevalence of obesity. The State's 2013 Prevention Agenda goal is to reduce the rate of obesity among adults to no more than 15 percent of adults. The prevalence of adult obesity increased from a rate of 22.9 percent in 2006 to 24.6 percent in 2009. Dr. Daines noted that the adult obesity rate in the state in 1996, at 14.5 percent, was actually below the 2013 Prevention Agenda goal, an indication of how quickly the rate of obesity has been climbing.

The State has made slight progress toward the goal of reducing the rate of obesity among children 2 to 4 years old to 11.6 percent by 2013. The 2009 rate of obesity for this age group was 14.4 percent, down slightly from 14.9 percent in 2005 (based on data on children enrolled in Women, Infants and Children WIC programs).

"Given that obesity and tobacco use greatly impact the health of New Yorkers and place a tremendous burden on taxpayers to pay for approximately $16 billion annually in health care spending to treat obesity and tobacco caused diseases, we must continue to find creative ways to address these problems," said Dr. Daines.

Dr. Daines thanked county public health directors and NYSACHO for their support of the State's Prevention Agenda, including NYSACHO president Paula Lacombe, Clinton County public health director; NYSACHO immediate past president Cynthia Morrow, M.D., Onondaga County commissioner of health; and NYSACHO executive director Linda Wagner.

Dr. Daines noted that over the past four years he had met a personal goal of visiting all 62 counties in the state to meet with local public health leaders, observe county health department activities and promote the Prevention Agenda.

Among the many activities during these journeys, he:

  • Dropped rabies vaccine baits from a helicopter over the North Country;
  • Tromped through the Cicero Swamp hunting disease-carrying mosquitoes;
  • Dragged for ticks in Columbia and Saratoga counties;
  • Watched manure being turned into green energy;
  • Observed pets getting rabies shots at a free rabies clinic;
  • Tasted low-fat, nutritious foods at a healthy café;
  • Met with migrant workers getting health care at a migrant labor camp;
  • Participated in four home care visits;
  • Visited school-based health centers and dental clinics;
  • Highlighted the importance of annual flu vaccinations at local flu vaccine clinics; and,
  • Toured community gardens, farms, water treatment plants, hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and many other venues where public health services are delivered.