Dr. Thomas Farley presents first annual College and Community Lecture.
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On Wednesday, February 17, New York City Commissioner of Health, Dr. Thomas Farley, presented City College's first annual College and Community Lecture, entitled “Take Care New York 2012: Building a Healthier Harlem." The lecture, sponsored by CCNY's Office of the President, with the Colin Powell Center as a cosponsor, brought together Harlem-based health leaders, community members, CCNY faculty, and concerned students to consider the city's initiative to improve health on 10 important measures, “Take Care New York 2012.” A group of about 40 individuals, including Colin Powell Center scholars and fellows, met with Dr. Farley before the lecture to discuss in depth what steps Harlem as a community should take to improve the health of its residents.
“Take Care New York 2012” begun in 2008, is the second health action plan the city has launched. The first, started in 2004, emphasized individual responsibility for health. For its current plan, the city is taking a different approach: stressing critical changes that the city itself, its neighborhoods and organizations can make to create an environment where making healthy choices is easy to do.
As Dr. Farley explained, burdening individuals with the sole responsibility for their health choices is increasingly understood as only modestly effective. He noted that just as environmental changes helped to wipe out infectious diseases such as cholera, strategic environmental changes can powerfully assist the city to reduce chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. As an example of the impact an environmental change can have on behavior, Dr. Farley pointed to research that showed that when grocers double the amount of space they devote to fruits and vegetables, purchases—and consumption—jump by 40 percent. “Can you name any intervention emphasizing individual responsibility that leads to such a substantial behavior change?” Dr. Farley asked his attentive listeners.
Among the environmental goals outlined in “Take Care New York 2012,” he said, are:
* creating a playground or park within a 10-minute walk of every New Yorker,
* providing guidelines for developers for activity friendly streetscapes, bike paths, and even staircases.
* increasing the number of streetside vendors in lower-income areas, but only for vendors who also sell fresh foods.
Dr. Farley also stressed that community organizations and health-care providers must play their part, and he encouraged organizations to sign up as “partners” on the Health Department’s Website. Partner organizations commit to making at least one health-promoting change, such as offering more fresh fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria or providing a discount for gym memberships. Dr. Farley also encouraged health-care providers to sign up for the City’s new Web-based tracking system for health-care providers, considered a national model. Through the system, Doctors and other providers can better track, manage and analyze their patients ‘s needs and see trends among populations. Users of the program also receive pop-up reminders geared to particular types of patients. For instance, if a patient is a smoker, a pop-up window asks whether the doctor has provided smoking-cessation counseling.
Dr. Farley, a New Jersey native, formerly in the number two spot at the department, was named commissioner in 2009. He is nationally respected public health leaders and epidemiologist, deeply committed to tackling issues that lead to poor health.