Acting State Health Commissioner Highlights Adapted Sports Program and the Tools and Techniques to Help People with Disabilities Stay Active

ALBANY (April 10, 2015) - In recognition of National Public Health Week, Acting New York State Health Commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker stopped today at state-operated Helen Hayes Hospital. As part of his statewide tour combating obesity, Dr. Zucker visited the facility’s Adapted Sports and Recreation program and Wellness Center, which not only helps people with disabilities stay fit, but also improves their recovery processes and fosters socialization and camaraderie. Governor Cuomo launched a statewide educational campaign this week to help fight obesity by providing information to New Yorkers about the second leading cause of death nationwide.

“Programs like the Adapted Sports and Recreation Program at Helen Hayes Hospital are invaluable components in the rehabilitation process,” said Dr. Zucker. “Not only do they help the injured and ill find fun ways to fight obesity by staying active, they also present patients with opportunities for socialization and help restore confidence during difficult times.”

"Here in Rockland County, we are fortunate to have so many venues and opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to be active and engaged.” said Rockland County Health Commissioner, Patricia Schnabel Ruppert. “Helen Hayes Hospital works in tandem with many local organizations, such as the Nyack Boat Club and the River Rowing Association, to ensure that sports and recreational activities are accessible and available to all. Health behaviors such as physical activity and access to exercise opportunities are essential in maintaining health. The Rockland County Department of Health salutes the hospital for taking a lead in this and helping us to earn the ranking of most healthy county in New York State."

The reduction of obesity rates is a key focus of the state’s Prevention Agenda 2013-17, the state’s health improvement plan. As the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States, obesity and overweight have reached epidemic proportions and may soon overtake tobacco as the leading cause of death.

In New York State, 25.4 percent of adults are obese and another 35.9 percent are overweight, affecting an estimated 8.7 million people. People with disabilities, both mental and physical, have been hit even harder by this epidemic with 34 percent of this population considered to be overweight and another 36.6 percent being considered obese. The Adapted Sports and Recreation Program and Helen Hayes Hospital helps individuals of all abilities fight back against obesity by helping patients stay active whether through new activities or ones that were previously enjoyed before an injury or illness.

“As a leading specialty physical rehabilitation hospital, Helen Hayes is committed to helping individuals with disabilities stay active and maintain optimum health and conditioning,” said Helen Hayes Hospital CEO Edmund Coletti. “We are very proud to say that our Adapted Sports & Rec program does just that. By offering a range of activities, from golf and gardening to sailing and rock climbing, participants have engaged in activities they may never have thought possible while others have returned to playing the sports they loved before becoming injured or getting sick.”

Over the past 14 years, the Helen Hayes Hospital Adapted Sports and Recreation program has served more than 1,000 people with a variety of disabilities, ranging from neurological conditions such as spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury or stroke to orthopedic and cardiac conditions and those with amputation. The program has grown from a single activity in 2002 to 19 in 2014, and three new sports are planned for the fall of 2015. Its first program, GolfAbility, has since flourished into a full golf facility which remains the only golf center fully dedicated to teaching people with disabilities how to golf again or learn golf after an injury or illness.

Additionally, the Wellness Center at Helen Hayes Hospital is a state-of-the-art exercise facility dedicated to promoting lifelong fitness. All members receive a thorough orientation and support from certified recreational therapy specialists to learn about how to tailor equipment to meet individual needs.

The Adapted Sports and Recreation Program works with ten partner organizations throughout the lower Hudson Valley which help supply volunteers and facilities. It is the sole Hudson River Valley Paralympic Club Chapter and is also a member of the U.S. Disabled Sports Association. In 2013, the Helen Hayes Foundation, the program’s primary supporter, was recognized by the New York State Therapeutic Recreation Association’s Outstanding Organization Award for that support.

First declared in 1995, National Public Health Week is an initiative of the American Public Health Association. It brings communities from all corners of the country together during the first full week of April to recognize the importance of public health policies and highlight issues that are vital to the overall health of the nation. In addition to Dr. Zucker’s statewide tour, DOH is also providing health tips through social media under the hash tag #GetFitNYS.

For more information about National Public Health Week, visit

For more information on ways to stay fit and eat healthy visit:

For more information about the Adapted Sports and Recreation Program, visit