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PR- 273-12
July 23, 2012


City's Largest Health Care Union Backs Plan

Obesity is 2nd Leading Cause of Preventable Death, Killing 5,800 New Yorkers Annually

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs and Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley today joined 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East President George Gresham to continue to push for the City’s anti-obesity initiative and highlight the expert support for the proposal to limit the size of sugary drinks sold in food service establishments to 16 ounces or less and other anti-obesity initiatives. Tomorrow, the New York City Board of Health will conduct a public hearing on the proposal at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in Long Island City. Obesity is a growing crisis in New York City and sugary drinks are a leading cause of the epidemic. Nearly 60 percent of New York City adults are overweight or obese, as are 40 percent of the City’s public elementary school students, and one in eight adult New Yorkers now has Type 2 diabetes. The Mayor was joined at The Ryan-NENA Community Health Center in the Lower East Side by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and the Center’s Executive Director Kathy Gruber.

“Six years ago, naysayers called the transfat ban ‘a misguided attempt at social engineering by a group of physicians who don’t understand the restaurant industry,’” said Mayor Bloomberg. “This week, we saw evidence that the ban is reducing New Yorkers’ fat intake and potentially saving lives. Six years from now, hopefully we are celebrating a reversal in the obesity epidemic currently killing 5,800 New Yorkers a year and due to our plan to limit the size of sugary beverages and other anti-obesity initiatives.”

“Our charge as City leaders is to further the public good,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “Like banning trans-fats and regulating tobacco use, limiting the size of highly caloric sugary beverages – which provide little to no nutritional value – promotes the health and well-being of New Yorkers. Beverage size has exploded over the last decade, leading consumers to inadvertently take in more calories than they might actively choose. Our proposal puts a normal-sized portion back in their hands.”

“Limiting the sale of large, sugary sodas will improve our health today and the health of future generations,” said 1199SEIU President Gresham. “Dozens of studies have shown that soda is a main culprit in the increase in obesity, diabetes and heart disease in communities of color, and thanks to Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership, New York City is doing something about it.”

“Obesity is a crisis this City cannot afford to ignore.” said Health Commissioner Farley. “If a virus were killing 5,800 New Yorkers in a single year, people would be clamoring for government action to stop it. The fact that obesity kills that many year after year only increases our duty to respond.”

“The war on obesity has to be fought on many fronts, and the Mayor’s plan to put sensible limits on the portion size of sugary drinks is an important first step,” said Manhattan Borough President Stringer. “When half of New York City’s adult population and 20 percent of our public school students are considered obese, it is the responsibility of government to combat this public health menace as best it can. I support the Mayor’s plan and am proud to stand with him, Commissioner Thomas Farley and 1199 President George Gresham today.”

The portion size proposal would limit the size of sugary drinks to 16 ounces or less at restaurants, mobile food carts, delis and concessions at movie theaters, stadiums and arenas. Sugary drinks are ubiquitous, high in calories, cheap, served in large sizes and yet deliver no nutritional value. They do not create a sensation of fullness, so people typically do not cut back on other calories when they consume extra calories through sugary drinks. The long term weight gain and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes associated with sugary drinks have been well documented.  In 2010, experts from Harvard University and three other leading nutrition research institutions in the United States and Canada concluded that because sugary drinks are important contributors to obesity, diabetes and heart disease, consumption “should be limited and replaced by healthy alternatives such as water.”

Leading Supporters of the Mayor’s Anti-Obesity Initiative

New York City Council Member Gale Brewer

New York City Council Member Margaret Chin

New York City Council Member Inez Dickens

New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm

New York City Council Member Brad Lander

New York City Council Member James F. Gennaro

New York City Council Member Jessica Lappin

New York City Council Member Domenic M. Recchia

New York City Council Member James Vacca

New York City Council Member Ruben Wills

Catherine M. Abate, President and CEO, Community Healthcare Network

Peter King, Sports Illustrated columnist

Tom Colicchio, Chef/Owner, Craft Restaurants

Kasandra Griffin, Policy Manager, Food and School Health, Upstream Public Health

Jesse Treviño, Author,

The American Public Health Association

Yael Lehmann, Executive Director, The Food Trust

The American Medical Student Association

Lori Dorfman, DrPH, Berkeley Media Studies Group

Sally Greenberg, Executive Director, National Consumers League

Sara Hobel, Executive Director, The Horticultural Society of New York

Robin Renzi, Designer & CEO, Me&Ro Jewelry

Bob Brownstein, Research and Policy Director, Working Partnerships USA

Steven F. Scanlin, President, National Association of Local Boards of Health

Y. Claire Wang, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Policy & Management, Mailman

School of Public Health, Columbia University

Karen Karp, President, Karp Resources

Cambridge, Massachusetts Mayor Henrietta Davis

Andrew Ackerman, Executive Director, Children’s Museum of Manhattan

Oregon Public Health Institute

Elizabeth Swain, President and CEO, Community Health Care Association of New York State

Dr. Harold Goldstein, California Center for Public Health Advocacy

Jo Ivey Boufford, MD, President, New York Academy of Medicine

Eva M. Barrett, Executive Director, Crossover Baptist Church Community Outreach Help Center

Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH, Dean, Mailman School of Public Health and Senior Vice President, Columbia University Medical Center


Dr. Alwyn Cohall, Director, Harlem Health Promotion Center, Columbia University

Lisa M. Powell, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, Institute for Health Research and Policy

Robert Kenner, Director, Food Inc.

Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé, Co-authors of Hope’s Edge and co-founders of the Small Planet Institute

Dr. Joseph Vassalotti, MD, Chief Medical Officer, National Kidney Foundation

Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health & Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Pascal James Imperato, MD, MPH & TM, Dean and Distinguished Service Professor, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, School of Public Health

Lawrence S. Weisberg, MD, FACP, FASN, Professor of Medicine and Assistant Dean for Curriculum, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University

Spike Lee, Filmmaker

Eric Schlosser, Author, Fast Food Nation

Jamie Oliver, Chef and Restaurateur

Betty Wolder Levin, PhD, Professor, Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences, Brooklyn College

Samuel Klein, MD, William H. Danforth Professor of Medicine and Nutritional Science & Director, Center for Human Nutrition, Washington University School of Medicine

William A. Gillespie, MD, Chief Medical Officer, EmblemHealth

Ronda Kotelchuck, CEO, Primary Care Development Corporation

Richard Ancona, MD, F.A.A.P., President, NY Chapter 2, American Academy of Pediatrics

Coalition of New York State Health Plans

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn

Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, The City University of New York

Marice Ashe, JD, MPH, Founder and CEO, ChangeLab Solutions (formerly Public Health Law & Policy)

Dodi Meyer, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Community Pediatrics, Columbia University Medical Center/New York Presbyterian Hospital

Alan Schwartz, Executive Chairman, Guggenheim Partners

Joanne M. Oplustil, Executive Director, CAMBA/CAMBA Housing Ventures

Ann M. Veneman, Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

Kenneth J. Podziba, President/Chief Executive Officer, Bike New York

Judy Collins, Folk Singer

Rich Berlin, Executive Director of Harlem RBI and Chairman of DREAM Charter School

Donna E. Shalala, President, University of Miami, Former United States Health and Human Services Secretary

Mary Wittenberg, President and C.E.O., New York Road Runners

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, President and Chief Executive Officer of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Ellen Gustafson, Founder and Executive Director of the 30 Project

Dennis Rivera, Chair, The Partnership for Quality Care

Robert Pestronk, Executive Director, National Association of County & City Health Officials

Nancy Romer, General Coordinator, Brooklyn Food Coalition

Heidi Skolnik, MS, CDN, FACSM, Sports Nutritionist, Fordham Athletics, Fordham University

David Kirchhoff, CEO of Weight Watchers International

Alice Ammerman, DrPH, RD, Professor of Nutrition and Director of the Prevention Research Center at the University of North Carolina, chapel hill

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter

David R. Jones, Esq., President and CEO, Community Service Society of New York

Daniel Sisto, President, Healthcare Association of New York State

Lance A. Parton, M.D., F.A.A., President, NY3 of the American Academy of Pediatrics

Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH, President and CEO, National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems

Burton L. Edelstein, DDS, MPH, Professor of Clinical Dentistry and Clinical Health Policy/Management Chair, Section of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Columbia University

Steven L. Gortmaker, Ph.D., Professor of the Practice of Health Sociology, Department of Society, Human Development and Health,  Harvard School of Public Health

Raj Patel, Journalist & Writer, Fellow at Institute for Food & Development Policy

Michele Simon, Author of Appetite For Profit

Barbara Ferrer, Executive Director, Boston Public Health Commission

Richard R. Buery, Jr., President and CEO, The Children’s Aid Society

David Nocenti, Executive Director, Union Settlement Association

Marcel Van Ooyen, Executive Director, GrowNYC

Former Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer

Kenneth Davis, MD, President and CEO of the Mount Sinai Medical Center

Connecticut Congressional Representative Rosa DeLauro

New York State Senator Gustavo Rivera

Jonathan Shenkin, DDS, MPH, Clinical Assistant Professor of Health Policy, Health Services Research and Pediatric Dentistry, Boston University

Jack Lund, President and CEO, YMCA of Greater New York

Dr. Lisa Young, Nutritionist and Professor at New York University’s Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health

Larry Cohen, Executive Director, Prevention Institute

Pat Wang, President and CEO, Healthfirst

Former President William J. Clinton

Dr. Steven Safyer, President and CEO of Montefiore Medical Center

Pastor Brian Carter, President, Borough of Brooklyn Ecumenical Advisory Group

Barry Popkin, Professor, Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

New York State Assembly Member Felix W. Ortiz

Brian Elbel, Health Policy Expert, NYU Langone Medical Center


Ellen Rautenberg, President and CEO, Public Health Solutions

Former Mayor Edward I. Koch

Marion Nestle, Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University

Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, Chair, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health

Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D, Vice Provost for Global Initiatives, Chair, Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Levy University Professor AT Perelman School of Medicine and The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Kelly Brownell, Director, Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University

Center for Science in the Public Interest Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson

Dr. Robert Ross, President, California Endowment

The United Way

The GYNHA/1199 SEIU Healthcare Education Project

The Citizens’ Committee for Children

Nancy Huehnergarth, Executive Director, New York State Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Alliance

The Obesity Society

About the Obesity Task Force

In December 2011, Mayor Bloomberg charged Deputy Mayor Gibbs and Deputy Mayor of Operations Holloway with significantly strengthening the City’s anti-obesity efforts by convening a multi-agency task force that would recommend innovative, aggressive solutions to address the obesity crisis in New York City. The Obesity Task Force was convened in January 2012 and conducted its work over the following several months.

Chaired by Deputy Mayor Gibbs and Deputy Mayor for Operation Cas Holloway, the Task force includes Commissioners from eleven City agencies and representatives from the Mayor’s Office, including: Alan Aviles, President, Health and Hospitals Corporation; Adrian Benepe, Commissioner, Department of Parks and Recreation; David Bragdon, Director, Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability; Amanda Burden, Commissioner, Department of City Planning; David Burney, FAIA, Commissioner, Department of Design and Construction; Robert Doar, Commissioner, Human Resources Administration; Dr. Thomas Farley, Commissioner, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Kim Kessler, Food Policy Coordinator; Robert LiMandri, Commissioner, Department of Buildings; John Rhea, Chairman, NYC Housing Authority; Janette Sadik-Khan, Commissioner, Department of Transportation; Carter Strickland, Commissioner, Department of Environmental Protection; and Dennis Walcott, Chancellor, Department of Education.

About Obesity/Overweight and the Impacts

Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more and overweight is a BMI of 25 or more. BMI is a metric that measures excess weight in relation to height. More information about how to calculate BMI for children is available on the Center for Disease Control website at Many serious health conditions are related to being overweight or obese, such as depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory problems and heart disease.

Obesity is a rapidly growing public health problem, with a majority of New York City adults – 58 percent or more than 3,400,000 people – now overweight or obese. Obesity is a leading cause of preventable premature death, second only to tobacco, and is responsible for thousands of deaths per year through diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

More than one in three adult New Yorkers now either has diabetes or a condition known as pre-diabetes, a state where blood sugar is higher than normal indicating the person is at risk for developing diabetes in the future. Obesity statistics are even more startling among New York City’s youth. Despite recent progress with childhood obesity, 21.7 percent of New York City children ages 6-11 years were obese, compared with 18.0 percent nationally in 2009-2010.

The obesity epidemic strikes hardest in communities already suffering from health and economic disparities, particularly black, Latino and low-income neighborhoods. Non-Hispanic black New Yorkers are almost three times more likely, and are Hispanics twice as likely, as non-Hispanic whites to die from diabetes. Additionally, obesity-related illnesses cost New York City residents $4 billion annually.


Stu Loeser/Marc La Vorgna   (212) 788-2958

Jean Weinberg/Chanel Caraway   (Department of Health and Mental Hygiene)
(347) 396-4177


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