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Press Release
New York City Department of Health
Office of Public Affairs
CONTACT: Sandra Mullin
Tuesday, January 29, 2002
(212) 295-5335/5336


New Commissioner Outlines Priorities and Vision for the Next Four Years

Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH was sworn in today as New York City's 41st Health Commissioner and began his tenure as head of the Departments of Health (DOH) and Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Alcoholism Services (DMH). He will serve as Acting Commissioner of DMH until July 2002 when DOH and DMH will merge and Dr. Frieden will become Commissioner of the new Department of Public Health.

Dr. Frieden returns to the New York City Department of Health where, as Assistant Commissioner and Director of the Tuberculosis Control Program from 1992 - 1996, he led efforts that halted the tuberculosis epidemic. For the past five years, Dr. Frieden worked in India as Medical Officer for the World Health Organization, on loan from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During his time there, he helped India develop one of the most effective tuberculosis control programs in the world.

"It is a tremendous honor to have been asked by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to serve as Commissioner," Dr. Frieden said. "New York City has a wonderful public health tradition. Public health departments can improve the quality and length of life. Through strong tobacco control efforts and by promoting better nutrition and regular exercise, we can control cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, the leading causes of premature illness and death in New York City.

"To make this new era of public health in New York City a successful one, we will need the participation of every individual and community," Dr. Frieden continued. His priorities include plans to:

  • Strengthen systems that monitor each community's health status to help identify community needs;

  • Decrease tobacco use, an epidemic that currently causes more than 12,000 deaths each year in New York City;

  • Work with communities to improve HIV prevention strategies;

  • Ensure that high quality, adequate services exist to serve persons with mental illness and developmental disabilities and to free individuals from dependence on alcohol or other drugs;

  • Promote the health of children through stronger partnerships with schools, especially in the areas of tobacco use; HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases; mental health; alcoholism and other drug use; asthma; violence; and obesity; and

  • Ensure New York City remains prepared to confront new and emerging disease threats, including those posed by biological terrorism.

Under Dr. Frieden's leadership, cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis declined 80% between 1992 and 1996. Before directing DOH's Tuberculosis Control Program, Dr. Frieden worked at DOH on a wide spectrum of public health issues as CDC Epidemiological Investigation Service (EIS) Officer from 1990 - 1992.

Dr. Frieden said, "The past year has been one of the most difficult in New York City's history. I look forward to working with communities to foster recovery and to further promote and protect the health of all New Yorkers. This is the greatest city in the world and one of the healthiest. Working closely with communities, together, we will make New York City even healthier."

Dr. Frieden's Biography