Bloomberg’s New York: A Focus On Public Health

by Claudia Morell
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Rusty Clark, Flickr

The audio version of this story is at the bottom.

Mayor Bloomberg wants New Yorkers to be healthy or at least health conscious.

Bloomberg banned smoking from restaurants and bars, and later added public parks and beaches to the list. He barred city eateries from cooking with trans-fats, required chain restaurants to post calorie counts, graded restaurants for their cleanliness, and just lost a court case to limit the size of sugary drinks.

And as part of WFUV's series on Bloomberg's New York this week, Claudia Morell talked with New Yorkers about one health policy seen daily that took years in court-battles before it finally took effect

22-year old Randy from the Bronx was waiting for food at the local McDonalds when I asked her if the calorie listings on the menu made a difference, "Waiting for food I'll stare at it like dang, that's a lot of calories. But it's still good; I'm still going to eat it.”

25-year-old Jannel Sellers had a similar sentiment, “Usually if I’m hungry for something, calorie counts aren’t really going to be something unless it’s a week that I have been going to the gym, or if I am really dieting at the time,” Sellers explained, “otherwise it’s just like, I want that particular item.”

Those comments are the norm, according to Brian Elbel, an Assistant Professor of Population Health and Healthy Policy at NYU's School of Medicine. Elbel and his colleagues studied consumer behavior and calorie counts at fast-food chains by surveying 1,170 adults in New York City and Newark before and after the policy went into effect in 2008.

The study found that while many notice the menu labels, only a handful of people take the amount of calories into consideration when deciding what food to buy.

"For many groups it is that they are busy, strapped for cash and leading stressful lives, and this food is available and relatively inexpensive," Elbel explained.

But that hasn't stopped dozens of other states and municipalities from following in New York City's footsteps by proposing or enacting legislation to add calorie listings to menus, which Elbel said is just one of many health initiatives that have extended beyond the city's borders.

"It's hard to really think about a mayor or government official who has taken a more pro-active approach to public health. And I think people look to us now as the premier health department to focus on things like obesity and smoking and other large health problems."

One battle the Mayor has yet to win is that over large sugary drinks. His ban has been ruled unconstitutional, but the mayor has vowed to not give up that fight.

 

 

 

 

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