State Health Commissioner Begins National Public Health Week Tour in the Capital Region

Crossgates Mall food court visit focuses on nutrition, preventing obesity and diabetes

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 4, 2011)– State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., kicked-off a multi-county National Public Health Week tour at Crossgates Mall in Albany County, to showcase the State's new "I Choose 600" obesity prevention campaign and recognize the efforts of the 20,000 public health workers in New York.

Commissioner Shah was joined at the mall food court by Albany County Executive Michael G. Breslin and Health Commissioner James B. Crucetti, M.D., M.P.H.

During his visit, Dr. Shah spoke about DOH's "600 or less" obesity prevention campaign, which was launched in late February to encourage people to make healthier food choices at fast food restaurants. The program, which will run through June, encourages New Yorkers to check the calorie counts of foods served by fast food chains and choose meals that total 600 calories or less. About one-third of the total calories people consume come from meals bought outside the home.

"Most adults can maintain a healthy weight by eating 2,000 or fewer calories a day," Dr. Shah said. "Choosing a 600-calorie meal will help people maintain a healthy weight when they're at a fast food restaurant. Most families eat at least one-third of their daily calories away from home, so strategies to eat healthy are essential."

Under local laws, fast food and chain restaurants in Albany, Schenectady, Ulster and Suffolk counties and New York City are required to post the calories of all foods they serve. In the summer of 2012, federal law will require all fast food chains to post calorie counts of the foods they serve. On April 1, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released draft calorie posting requirements for vending machines and restaurants (see

County Executive Breslin said, "We are pleased to partner with Commissioner Shah and the State Department of Health on the 'I Choose 600' campaign to prevent obesity and to educate residents about how to maintain a healthy weight. Albany County has been at the forefront of public health initiatives to encourage better nutrition and increase physical activity. A critical step in our efforts was our 2009 menu labeling legislation, which has been helping people make healthier choices when they eat out."

Albany County Health Commissioner Crucetti said, "Obesity is a national public health epidemic that requires a local community-wide response. In Albany County, the percentage of overweight or obese adults is 63 percent, which is slightly above the state average of 59 percent. One major response strategy is to raise awareness about calorie content of foods that enables individuals to take important steps to reduce their daily caloric intake. The menu labeling law and the 'I Choose 600' campaign provide valuable information to members of our community to guide them on their choice of menu items when dining out. We are pleased to be part of this important initiative."

Through the "I Choose 600" campaign, DOH is encouraging people to use this information as a guide to planning a healthy diet that contains fewer calories. Dr. Shah noted that many fast food restaurants offer low-calorie food options, and if people make smart choices to limit their calorie consumption, they can maintain a healthy weight or even lose some pounds. By raising public awareness about food choices and urging people to cut down on calories, the "I Choose 600" campaign can be a tool to help reduce obesity, diabetes, certain types of cancers and other health risks.

The campaign is targeted at parents, who can set a healthy example for their children and also supervise what the entire family eats. Although eating fast food meals has become part of our culture, parents should use the calorie postings to make smart choices that will lead to healthier living for themselves and their children.

The campaign includes billboards, bus advertisements, radio spots, a Facebook page (, and displays at mall food courts such as Crossgates Mall.

Commissioner Shah will visit communities in the Capital Region, Hudson Valley and New York City during National Public Health Week, April 4-8, to highlight state and local public health activities to reduce rates of obesity and diabetes, provide community health services, and create smoke-free outdoor and recreation areas.

Healthy eating is one of the 10 priorities in DOH's Prevention Agenda Toward the Healthiest State (, an innovative project launched in 2008 to improve the health of all New Yorkers. The strategy calls for active collaboration among New York State, local health departments, hospitals, schools, health care providers, businesses, and community partners, working together to prevent disease, expand and enhance community health planning, and achieve measurable progress toward meeting public health goals.

"We are fortunate to have strong public health partnerships in New York to help prevent the spread of disease, quickly respond to potential health threats, and protect the health and safety of our communities," Commissioner Shah said. "I look forward to observing local public health programs in action and discussing how we can develop additional strategies to create healthier communities and families. During National Public Health Week, we honor those who are committed to creating healthy communities and challenge all New Yorkers to make good health their priority."

More than half the counties in the New York selected increasing the amount of physical activity and improving nutrition as local priorities. About half these counties have begun planning or already have implemented programs to address these concerns and are working with both and local partners to develop effective, evidence-based strategies that will lead to positive results.

Statistics show that more than 60 percent of adults in New York and more than one-third of children are obese or overweight. Individuals who are obese or overweight face a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, certain types of cancer, or asthma. New York State spends nearly $8 billion annually on health care for obesity-related illnesses.

For the complete list of events on Commissioner Shah's Public Health Week schedule, visit: