New York City’s Michael Bloomberg has a public health resume unlike any U.S. mayor in recent times. To whit: two public smoking bans (bars, and then parks), a city-wide phase-out of trans fats, required calorie counts in restaurants, and a pending ban on large size sodas. That’s before you count diet education, smoking cessation programs, coupons for farmers markets, affordable housing efforts and the city’s work on complete streets (see below).
What do New Yorkers have to show for all of this? As reported by Slate’s Lowen Liu, they have an average of eight extra years of life expectancy. According to a University of Washington study, “more than 60% of the increase in life expectancy can be attributed to reductions in heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke.” Bloomberg’s decisions aren’t the sole reason for the improvement, but they certainly aren’t working at cross purposes (see here and here).
Bottom line, Bloomberg recognizes what all of us should: that health is everyone’s business. Maricopa County has its own Department of Public Health – and a darn good one (even if it is ridiculously underfunded by any standard) – but health can and should be the concern of all elected officials. Rather than succumb to cries of “nanny state” or some other ideological jibe, its past time to face health challenges with creativity and focus at municipal, county and state levels.
Is it too much to ask that someone, some time in the future refer to us as the first public health state?