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Press Release

Press Release # 013-14
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

MEDIA CONTACT: (347) 396-4177
Jean Weinberg/Veronica Lewin:

Health Department Announces New Center for Health Equity to Decrease Health Disparities

New resources will be used to expand work in maternal and reproductive health

May 27, 2014 – Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett today announced new initiatives to protect and promote the physical and mental health of all New Yorkers. Highlights include the creation of the Center for Health Equity, a reduction in restaurant fines, an expansion of maternal and reproductive health services and a pilot program to reduce the rat population in New York City. Commissioner Bassett announced these new initiatives in her testimony on the Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2015.

“The new funding in the Executive Budget will allow the Health Department to take a community-based approach to improve health outcomes for all New Yorkers,” said Commissioner Bassett. “We look forward to improving services and working closely with the City Council and the communities we serve to build a healthier city.”

"Reducing health disparities, addressing New Yorkers' health needs, and bringing the focus to the community -- that's what the FY15 budget is about," said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Council's Committee on Health. "This new approach by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will address the needs of New York's many communities. The Center for Health Equity will bring much needed focus to communities who are disproportionally affected by diabetes, obesity and other premature morbidities and is an important step towards the comprehensive health system planning that will help to provide New Yorkers with the resources to live a healthier life, which in the end, saves lives and saves money. I applaud the Administration for this local approach to health planning and look forward to implementing these important polices for the City of New York."

Reducing Health Disparities

Many of the health issues facing New Yorkers, including obesity, diabetes and maternal mortality, disproportionally affect communities of color. During FY 2015, the Health Department will launch the Center for Health Equity to address health disparities that result in an excess burden of ill health and premature mortality in New York City’s communities of color. The Center will focus on three key areas: leveraging policy changes to better integrate primary care and public health to serve the health needs of communities, building interagency collaboration to address the root causes of health disparities, and increasing access to care by making services more accessible in neighborhoods with the worst health outcomes.

Through the Center, which has $3.2 million in funding within the Executive Budget, the Health Department will pilot an innovative Community Health Worker program in public housing. Community Health Workers will help support residents living in public housing in managing their health conditions.

Reduction in Restaurant Fines

The Executive Budget takes into account the anticipated reduction in restaurant fines to $30 million in FY 2015 due to a 15 percent decrease in levied fines and a reduction in fines resulting from continued improvement by restaurants. Today, 88 percent of restaurants in New York City post an A grade.

In the last fiscal year, fines collected fell 23 percent from its peak in fiscal year 2012. Under the new rules, which include fixed penalties, restaurants will see a further reduction of 15 percent in fines, returning to pre-grading levels despite more frequent inspections.

Maternal and Reproductive Health

The Health Department remains committed to reducing unintended pregnancies and improving birth outcomes in New York City. $3.2 million of new funding was added to the Executive Budget to allow the Health Department to expand both the Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Health (CATCH) program in schools, and the Newborn Home Visiting Program. CATCH, a program that provides reproductive health services at schools in communities with high teen pregnancy rates, will be expanded to 14 additional sites and reach approximately 20,000 students annually. The Newborn Home Visiting Program provides breastfeeding support and helps new parents create a safe and nurturing home for their families. With the new funding, the Health Department will be able to provide an additional 1,000 visits to mothers and families each year to support children and new mothers.

Pest Control

New funding in the Executive Budget will allow the Health Department to pilot a new approach to reducing the rat population in New York City by attacking “rat reservoirs” within selected neighborhoods with chronic rat problems in Manhattan and the Bronx. The Department will repeatedly assess, track, and address conditions on public and private properties that have rat reservoirs, areas where populations of rats repeatedly rebound from extermination attempts. The Department, working cooperatively with neighborhood associations, elected officials, Community Boards, and other partners, will assign a property-owner liaison to guide owners and managers in the target neighborhoods.

To read Commissioner Bassett’s full testimony, click here.