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Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release # 066-07
Thursday, August 9, 2007

CONTACT INFORMATION FOR MEDIA:
(212) 788-5290
Sara Markt (smarkt@health.nyc.gov)
Celina DeLeon (cdeleon@health.nyc.gov)


NEW YORK CITY REACHES 2008 TARGETS FOR LOWERING SMOKING AND INCREASING COLONOSCOPY SCREENING

Report on the City’s Health Shows Fewer Deaths from Alcohol and HIV, But Drug Deaths Remain High, and Breast Cancer Screening Is Down

NEW YORK CITY – August 9, 2007 – The Health Department reported significant progress today in helping New Yorkers live healthier lives. In its third annual report on the City’s Take Care New York health policy, the agency reports that the New Yorkers met the programs for reducing smoking and increasing colonoscopy screening some two years ahead of schedule. Launched in 2004, the TCNY policy aims to tackle the main causes of preventable illness and death in New York City. The complete report is available at http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/tcny/tcny-report-2007.pdf.

Launched in 2004, TCNY aimed to reduce the city’s smoking rate to 18% by 2008. But the report shows that the rate fell to 17.5% in 2006, thanks to the City’s aggressive anti-tobacco campaign. The cigarette tax, the Smoke-Free Air Act, sustained hard-hitting advertising, and nicotine replacement giveaways all played a part. Altogether, New York City now has 240,000 fewer smokers than it had in 2002.

Likewise, the city met its 2008 colonoscopy target in 2006, when some 60% of adults over 50 reported they had had the screening test. The rate marks a dramatic jump from 2003, when only 42% of New Yorkers over 50 said they had a colonoscopy. The Health Department has worked in close partnership with the Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) to build awareness of colonoscopy and increase screening through media campaigns. The agencies have also created a “navigator” program to help residents in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods get into screening programs. Through these efforts, the city has drastically reduced and in some cases eliminated the stark disparities in screening rates among ethnic groups.

The Health Department also reported progress in other areas:

  • 508 fewer deaths from HIV. The number of New Yorkers who died from HIV/AIDS fell from 1,713 in 2002 to 1,205 in 2006 (halfway to the 2008 goal of less than 1,000 deaths). The decline occurred mainly among injection drug users, reflecting a drop in unsafe needle use over the past decade. While these numbers indicate progress, they don’t amount to a victory. To stem the tide of the epidemic, the Health Department will continue work to prevent new infections and link HIV-positive people to care and treatment. 
  • 10% fewer women die from intimate partner homicide. This trend parallels a citywide decline in homicide and rape in recent years. In 2006, the Health Department introduced domestic violence screening in STD clinics and city jails, while expanding nurse home visits for new mothers. In the coming year, the Department will release a more detailed report on domestic violence and will conduct extensive outreach to health care providers on how to screen for it.
  • Over 100 fewer deaths from alcohol.  The number of New Yorkers who died from alcohol-related causes fell from 1,551 in 2002 to 1,450 in 2005 (two thirds of the way to the 2008 goal of 1,400 deaths). The Health Department is now expanding a program in which city hospitals intervene to help problem drinkers. The agency is also working with primary-care physicians to continue this downward trend.
  • 265,000 more New Yorkers have a regular doctor. Having a regular doctor significantly improves medical care and increase the likelihood of receiving critical preventive services. More than 4.7 million New Yorkers have achieved this first step toward a longer, healthier life.

We set the bar high,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the New York City Health Commissioner. “With the help of groups around the city, New Yorkers are making real progress. New Yorkers are getting healthier, but we have much more to do. We can prevent more deaths from heart disease, drugs, cancer, and influenza. We can help more people stay healthy throughout their lives.”

The Challenges Ahead

In spite of great strides made in reaching many of the Take Care New York goals, little or no progress was made in some areas. Drug-related deaths remain high, and 34 more people died from drugs in 2006 than in 2002. Drug overdose is a leading cause of death among young adult and middle-aged New Yorkers. The Health Department is expanding both drug treatment and harm reduction programs that help people get off drugs and prevent deaths.

Breast cancer screening rates are down by 3% since 2002. About 75% of New York City women over 40 say they had a mammogram in the past two years. This decline mirrors a national trend that may reflect multiple factors, including low physician reimbursement rates. Breast cancer kills more than 1,200 New York City women each year, and mammography is still the best method for early detection and treatment.

Influenza can be deadly, especially for New Yorkers over 65. Despite a media campaign and broad-based outreach to groups at risk, the flu vaccination rate fell by 7% between 2002 and 2006 – in large part due to problems with vaccine supply and distribution. About 59% of older adults got their flu shot during the 2005-2006 season. The Health Department will continue to work to make this vaccination more accessible to these New Yorkers.

“We all want to be as healthy as possible, but with so much information it can be hard to know what’s most important,” said Frieden. “Take Care New York helps keep us all focused on what matters most. It gives people 10 steps they can take now to live longer, healthier lives.”

A growing network of nearly 270 Take Care New Yorkpartners, including hospitals, clinics, insurers, and community-based organizations, are working with the Department to meet the 2008 goals. With these partners, the Health Department has distributed more than 3.5 million Health Passports – a pocket checklist that people track their personal health information – since 2004.

Data in this report come from the Community Health Survey, the New York City Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and preliminary vital statistics data from 2006. For more information on Take Care New York, call 311.

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