New York Observes National Public Health Week

State Health Department to Build on Public Health Achievements, Address Ongoing Challenges

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 3, 2012) -- In commemoration of National Public Health Week, April 2-8, 2012, State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., highlighted recent public health achievements in New York and pledged to build on these efforts to ensure all New Yorkers enjoy optimal health.

"Public health is an area where strong partnerships and proactive policies can make a difference in preventing disease and helping people live healthy, productive lives," Commissioner Shah said. "With each achievement in public health, there is another challenge to face, but we are committed to providing the critical services, health education and interventions needed to improve health outcomes for all New Yorkers."

Among the many, diverse public health accomplishments in the past year:

  • A heroic response to Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee by State and Local Health Departments: The storms and flooding caused nearly 10,000 people to be evacuated from health care facilities, nursing homes and adult care facilities, and impacted water systems and food supplies. Working in conjunction with volunteers in 31 counties designated as disaster areas, State and local efforts supported 198 shelters, monitored 168 affected community water systems, conducted laboratory and food safety consultations, and staffed emergency operation centers for 28 days, including many around-the-clock shifts.
  • A decline in the rate of youth smoking: From 2000 to 2010, the smoking rate among New York's middle school students declined 68 percent to 3.2 percent, and the rate for high school students fell 54 percent to 12.6 percent. The percentage of non-adult smokers has never been lower.
  • The rate of hospital acquired infections continued to decline in New York State: Since 2007, the rate of central-line associated bloodstream infections has decreased 37 percent and rates for surgical site infections for selected procedures, declined 15 percent. For additional information on rates of hospital acquired infections in New York State, visit:
  • Asthma funding: State grants totaling $7.2 million over five years were awarded to eight regional coalitions to provide asthma services to high-risk populations and reduce the burden of asthma in New York communities.
  • Childhood obesity: State grants totaling $4.5 million over five years were awarded to nine organizations to reduce child and adolescent obesity. The grants target populations with a high incidence of obesity or excess weight, including low-income populations, certain racial and ethnic minorities, and persons with developmental disabilities.
  • HIV prevention and testing: In 2011, the State implemented a new HIV testing law that requires all health care providers to offer voluntary HIV testing to patients aged 13 to 65 and simplifies the testing consent process; expanded Medicaid Managed Care for persons living with HIV; and provided oversight of HIV and hepatitis prevention and care in State and local correctional settings.
  • Minority health and health disparities: The State Health Department created a new Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities Prevention to address health outcomes in underserved communities. The State's Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) also developed recommendations for programs and services to address and eliminate health disparities.
  • Disease surveillance: The State Health Department tracked and responded to Salmonella infections that arose in New York and other states related to meat distribution, and also tracked cases of flu, hepatitis, pertussis (Whooping cough) and other communicable diseases.

New York's public health interventions are achieved in many ways, including funding for local health departments to control communicable disease and promote family health, early intervention, and health preparedness. In addition, the State Health Department develops and administers policies and programs to promote a culture of good health such as the Clean Indoor Air Act, food safety regulations, health enforcement, and contracts with hundreds of community partners that provide direct services such as family planning and school health. The State also provides direct services to assist local communities, including environmental health services in 21 counties, communicable disease control, and testing for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

A new State Health Improvement Plan for 2013-17 is being developed and will serve as a blueprint and call to action to local health departments, health care providers, health plans, schools, employers and businesses to collaborate at the community level to improve the health status of all New Yorkers. The draft agenda is posted on the State Health Department web site at

New York State remains committed to supporting local public health efforts to respond to current and emerging issues and use evidence-based strategies to combat public health challenges. Among issues that will be a focus of public health efforts are: increasing participation in New York's organ donation program; expanding primary prevention of childhood lead poisoning; improving maternal and child health; addressing the resurgence of HIV infection in young gay men; and pediatric obesity prevention efforts – including increasing health care providers' screening of children's body mass index and improved interventions to address weight problems in children and adolescents.