Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The First Bronx CAN Bill Passes

Conchita Cruz I 305 484 9260 I [email protected]

Senator Rivera and Assembly Member Dinowitz Pass Smoking Ban Legislation
Legislation Bans Smoking Within 100 Feet of School Entrances and Exits

Albany, NY - State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D, WF-Bronx) and Assembly Member Jeff Dinowitz (D-Bronx) yesterday afternoon passed S 6854-B/A 10141-B in both the State Senate (54-2) and State Assembly (102-2). This legislation was the first of Senator Rivera's health bills that was developed from dialogue with health partners and community members during the 2011 Bronx CAN Health Initiative.

"The Bronx has the lowest youth smoking rate of New York City, however, in order to keep our youth safe from smoking-related disease, we have to also work toward limiting children's exposure to secondhand smoke," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. "This legislation [S.6854-B] does just that, by extending the ban on smoking within schools to a ban on smoking within 100 feet of school entrances and exits. I am proud this bill was a product of my work with Bronx elected officials and local community health organizations as part of the Bronx CAN Health Initiative."

Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, sponsor of the legislation in the Assembly, said, "New York State successfully banned smoking indoors to protect all New Yorkers from the harmful side effects of secondhand smoke. This bill [A.10141-B] seeks to further protect our youth who are now exposed to secondhand smoke at entrances and exits of their school buildings from unwanted exposure. Smoking is particularly dangerous to children. This bill will help to protect them from the scourge of secondhand smoke."

"I'd like to congratulate Senator Gustavo Rivera, Assembly Member Jeff Dinowitz and their colleagues that supported S.6854/A10141-B on the floor of the State Legislature yesterday evening," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. "This bill is the first of a comprehensive legislative agenda grown from our Bronx CAN Health Initiative now in its second year. We are uniting all levels of government, community based organizations and social service entities to put forth an aggressive health and wellness campaign for our borough to serve as a model for our city and state."

"Our city's schools should be a safe haven where youth can learn in a smoke-free environment," said Sheelah A. Feinberg, Executive Director, NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City. "Ensuring the exits and entrances to our schools are smoke-free will not only protect youth, but hopefully encourage them to never light up. Our youth have the right to breathe clean, smoke-free air where they learn, live and play."

Click here to watch State Senator Gustavo Rivera discuss this legislation [S.6854-B] on the floor of the State Senate.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Obesity Ills That Won't Budge Fuel Soda Battle By Bloomberg

By Winnie Hu for The New York Times

A hospital offers Zumba and cooking classes. Farmers markets dole out $2 coupons for cantaloupe and broccoli. An adopt-a-bodega program nudges store owners to stock low-fat milk. And one apartment building even slowed down its elevator, and lined its stairwells with artwork, to entice occupants into some daily exercise.

In the Bronx, where more than two-thirds of adults are overweight, the message has been unmistakably clear for a long time: Slim down now.

But, if anything, this battery of efforts points to how intractable the obesity problem has become in New York’s poorest borough. The number of the overweight and obese continue to grow faster in the Bronx than anywhere else in the city — nearly one in three Bronx adults is obese — leading the city’s health commissioner to call it “ground zero for the obesity epidemic problem.”

So it was to the weight-burdened Bronx that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg went last week to make the case for his controversial proposal to ban supersized sodas and sugary drinks. Standing in the lobby of Montefiore Medical Center, the borough’s largest hospital, he was flanked by doctors who spoke of treating more patients than ever with diabetes, hypertension and other obesity-related diseases.

Critics have described the proposed soda rule as interfering with a matter of personal choice, calling instead for less intrusive means to address the obesity problem, through education and access to healthy foods. But the Bronx experience helps explain why Mr. Bloomberg and city health officials embraced the aggressive new regulatory tack after years of trying, and failing, to curb obesity through those types of measures.

At parks, bodegas and fast-food restaurants across the Bronx, many residents had not heard of most of the previous anti-obesity efforts. “If I did, I don’t think I’d be this big right now,” said Faith Coleman-Njikeng, who, at 5-foot-2 and 200 pounds, has never been heavier. “They didn’t do a good job of publicizing them.”
For others, nothing had worked. Brett Toney, who is 5-foot-9 and 210 pounds, and his wife, who is also obese, have sworn off fried foods, attended health fairs, used a coupon for a farmers markets and walked in a park for exercise in the past year. He did not lose a single pound. She gained 20.

Kelly D. Brownell, the director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, said that while education and incentives were popular with the public, those programs tended to reach relatively small numbers because of their limited funds. He said he supported the use of regulations like the city’s proposed ban on large sodas as a necessary step toward curbing obesity.

“It completely makes more sense to make the environment healthier rather than to just do pure education,” he said.

In defending his proposal, Mr. Bloomberg said at Montefiore that the ban was not intended to tread on anyone’s rights, and he noted that more than individual liberties were at stake. “We are absolutely committed to doing everything in our power to help you get on track and stay on track to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” he said. “Because this isn’t your crisis alone — it is a crisis for our city and our entire country.”
Though the Bronx has the largest percentage of overweight adults, a staggering 70 percent, the other four boroughs also have seen increases in the past decade. Sixty-two percent of Staten Island adults are overweight; followed by Brooklyn, at 60 percent; Queens, at 57 percent; and Manhattan, at 47 percent, according to city health data.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 68 percent of adults in the United States were either overweight or obese in 2008.

“It’s simple math: it’s increased intake of calories and decreased exercise,” said Dr. Steven M. Safyer, the president and chief executive officer of Montefiore, which spends about $7 million annually on anti-obesity and related programs, including community health fairs and free Zumba, yoga and cooking classes for thousands of employees, patients and local residents. The hospital no longer sells sugary drinks, deep fried foods or ice cream on the premises. Dr. Safyer supports the proposed soda rule.

During a recent health fair at St. James Park, about 100 people had their weights and blood pressures measured. Community groups handed out brochures for nutrition programs, jump-ropes, energy bars and even a card showing portion sizes of foods like rice and beans.

Some left with optimism that they would change their ways. “I’m going to take care of myself more,” Jose Jimenes, who is 5-foot-6 and 200 pounds, said after learning he had high blood pressure.

City health officials and community leaders insist that all the anti-obesity measures have helped some people, though they acknowledged it was not enough in a borough of 1.4 million.

“I wouldn’t call anything we’ve done a failure until we put them all together,” said Dr. Thomas A. Farley, the health commissioner, who believes the soda rule will work together with the previous efforts.
There is little available data showing the cost of the programs, the number of participants or the results. 

Aides for Mr. Bloomberg noted that the efforts had worked, with more than 500 bodegas and 20 supermarkets in the Bronx now stocking healthier food. But they did not report the extent to which whole-wheat bread was replacing white bread or low-fat milk was replacing whole milk in customers’ shopping baskets.

The impact of other programs was also inconclusive. The mayor’s aides said the city had issued 200 permits for green carts, which sell fresh fruits and vegetables, in Bronx neighborhoods since 2008, and that the $2 coupons for farmers markets, known as Health Bucks, had an 88 percent redemption rate in the Bronx, up from 81 percent the year before.

Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, said that while the mayor had proposed a bold idea, the city should focus on expanding community and education programs rather than trying to dictate soda sizes.
“Ultimately people need to be responsible for their own actions,” Mr. Diaz said, explaining that “if they’re of a certain mind-set, they’re going to continue to have poor eating habits, and we’re still going to have the same problem.”

Outside a bustling McDonald’s near Yankee Stadium, many Bronx residents said the only effect of the proposed ban would be on their wallets: they would have to buy two small cups of soda ($2.58) instead of one large ($1.89) to get their fill.

“If I eat cheeseburgers and fries, I’m going to get dehydrated and that little cup is not enough,” said Jessica Torres, 22, a mother of two.

Arla Lucien, 27, a post office clerk trying to lose 40 pounds, said a ban would no more help her stick to her diet than the calorie counts posted on menus, another anti-obesity measure that city leaders hoped would lead consumers to make healthier decisions. She still orders her Big Macs.

“Really, you’re going to tell me how to eat and drink?” she said. “That’s not going to work. It’s hard to do with kids; you think it’s going to work with adults?” 

Continúa la batalla contra la obesidad

Por José Acosta - El Diario

Campaña busca educar a la comunidad para mejorar los hábitos de la salud

El senador estatal Gustavo Rivera, (izq.) saluda al presidente del condado de El Bronx, Rubén Díaz Jr. quienes festejan la campaña para combatir la obesidad. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

State Sen. Gustavo Rivera kicks off part two of Bronx health initiative, agrees people need less soda

By Corinne Lestch / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

This state senator is all for Mayor Bloomberg’s controversial soda ban.
Gustavo Rivera (D-West Bronx) kicked off the second part of his Bronx CAN (Changing Attitudes Now) health initiative, co-sponsored by Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., on Saturday, which has helped hundreds of Bronxites kick poor eating habits.
Stephen Ritz, a veteran teacher who was born and raised in the Bronx, said he lost 93 pounds since starting the informal program that includes public weigh-ins and community health fairs.
“What I love about the Bronx CAN initiative is, it’s really about replacing bad habits with good habits in small incremental steps,” said Ritz, who runs the Bronx Green Machine, a sustainable environment program for teens. “That is the basis for long-term success.”
A man who used to eat two bagels each morning and two liters of soda a day, Ritz now echoes the main tenets of Rivera’s good-eats gospel: “smaller portions, less fat, less sugar, lots of water.”
Last Thursday, Bloomberg announced a push for retailers - from movie theaters to corner bodegas - to ban the sale of sugary drinks more than 16 ounces.
“I think it’s a step forward, because what the mayor is trying to do is think about the long-term impact of making changes,” said Rivera, who compared the idea to banning smoking in public places, another Bloomberg idea.
“Think about it - a 32-ounce cup of soda is 27 packets of sugar.”
Rivera started publicly weighing himself last June after the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s annual report revealed the Bronx failed its annual checkup - the borough came in last of healthiest places in the state.
“Me putting myself on a scale, it was a little shocking,” said the pol, who weighed in at 300 pounds at the start and has kept about 30 pounds off since then. “It was just kind of a wake-up call.”
During the next year of the initiative, Rivera hopes to lose 20 more pounds and there will be free exercise and health fairs, including zumba lessons, for the Bronx community.
There are also three pieces of health legislation currently being considered in the state assembly and senate.
For more information or to get involved, call (212) 933-2034.

Monday, June 4, 2012

No Smoking Here, Please

By Kirsten Sanchez for Bronx Times

A year after NYC’s parks and beaches were declared smoke free, the law’s supporters gathered last week to celebrate.

The Bronx Smoke Free Partnership and the Bronx District Public Heath office were joined by elected officials and other supporters at Tremont Park near Arthur Avenue park to sing the year-old law’s praises.

Theresa Williams, a mother and Belmont resident said it was the first time she had her son in the park, because he has asthma “and there would always be people smoking in here.”

“It’s so great to see the No Smoking signs up now around the park and that everyone is abiding by them.”

David Lehman, borough manager of the Bronx Smoke Free Partnership, said he believes the ban has absolutely been successful.

“Seventy five percent of New Yorkers say that they support smoke free parks and beaches,” Lehman said. “I think the law has been almost self enforcing.”

He noted that people who continue to smoke in the park can face a summons and a hefty fine.
“New York City Parks and Recreation is in charge of enforcing the law, but I think most people realize there are kids around and most parents don’t want smoking around them.”

Lehman said he believes only a small number of fines have been given out.

“For most people, if they see a sign, they respect it,” he said. “It is just like the smoke-free work place law that went into effect in 2002, when people said ‘You can’t tell people not to smoke in bars and restaurants, but the law has been totally self-enforcing and now there is 99 percent compliance with it."

Jane Bedell, assistant commissioner of the NYC Department of Health’s district office said she thinks the law has been much more effective than a lot of people though it would be.

“We know that children are very effected by the images around them and we know they are very effected by the grownups around them, so we wanna try to keep places where children are as tobacco free and smoke free as possible.”

West Bronx Senator Gustavo Rivera, who has been a major supporter of the anti-smoking movement, said he is proud to support the Bronx Smoke-Free Partnership and ban on smoking in public parks and beaches.
“It is important to have clean air for our kids, clean air for our neighbors and clean air for our parks,” Rivera said.

Bronx CAN in Bronx News Roundup

By Alex Kratz for Norwood News

The second year of the Bronx CAN (Changing Attitudes Now) Health Initiative, spearheaded by Bronx State Senator Gustavo Rivera and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., officially kicked off on Saturday, the Daily News reports. (More on Bronx CAN later on.) Good details from the DN about South Bronx Educational Campus baseball player Jose Soriano overcoming a recent attack to help his team reach the B Division final. South Bronx plays Queens Vocational on Friday for the B title.
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