NY State Releases Health Improvement Plan

Apr 4, 2013, 11:00 AM

file New York State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah presents the state's 2013-17 Prevention Agenda

Yesterday, New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, MD, MPH, released the 2013-17 Prevention Agenda: New York State’s Health Improvement Plan—a statewide, five-year plan to improve the health and quality of life for everyone who lives in New York State. The plan is a blueprint for local community action to improve health and address health disparities.

Dr. Shah was joined by New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, MD, MPH, and representatives from leading health care and community organizations at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center in Manhattan. Among the other speakers were Jo Ivey Boufford, MD, president of The New York Academy of Medicine, and Daniel Sisto, president of the Healthcare Association of New York State.

 >>Read a related Q&A with Commissioner Nirav Shah.

“We’ve all heard the adage—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Commissioner Shah. “We need to fundamentally change the way we think about achieving better health in our society.”

file Nirav Shah joined by New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley and representatives from leading health care and community organizations at the release of the 2013-17 Prevention Agenda at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center in Manhattan

That fundamental shift toward prevention, said Dr. Shah, requires setting clear goals, promoting active collaborations, and identifying policies and strategies that create opportunities for everyone to live a healthy life.

The Prevention Agenda identifies five priority areas:

  • Prevent chronic disease
  • Promote healthy and safe environments
  • Promote healthy women, infants and children
  • Promote mental health and prevent substance abuse
  • Prevent HIV, STDs, vaccine-preventable diseases, and healthcare-associated infections

A health improvement plan like the one released by the New York Department of Health is a critical prerequisite for public health department accreditation. Recently, the Public Health Accreditation Board awarded five-year accreditation to 11 public health departments. Those 11 are the first of hundreds currently preparing to become accredited, including New York state.

"Completing the accreditation application, which includes our Prevention Agenda 2013-17, provides the Department of Health a valuable opportunity to engage partners and community stakeholders in our ongoing efforts to improve public health, evaluate the effectiveness of our services and showcase our successes," Commissioner Shah said.

The Prevention Agenda builds on a previous program for 2008-2012 that was extensively evaluated and has shown success. Dr. Shah points to the example of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program in New York, which was revamped to provide vouchers for more nutritious food for low-income families. New York was the first state in the nation to roll out the new package of food vouchers, which added vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, substituted low-fat for whole milk, and reduced fruit juices. “That was essentially a policy intervention that changed what thousands of children ate,” said Dr. Shah. “And the numbers prove it.” After the changes in WIC programming, there was a 6 percent decline in obesity among 1 year-olds and a 3 percent decline among 2-4 year-olds.

Other progress as a result of these kinds of collaborations and policy interventions in New York included:

  • Improvements in access to care (+2.4 percent);
  • Early diagnosis of colorectal cancer (+14.8 percent);
  • Decline in infant mortality (-8.6);
  • Declines in smoking rates for adults (-14.8 percent) and adolescents (-22.7 percent);
  • Improvements in lead screenings for children by age three (+10.8 percent);
  • Decline in female breast cancer morality (-18 percent).

The Prevention Plan is the result of a collaboration with 140 organizations, including hospitals, local health departments, health providers, health plans, employers and schools that identified key priorities. “The actual work of public health is done only in part by the health department,” said Dr. Farley, who  noted that New York City’s prevention plan, Take Care New York, was also coordinated with the state's Prevention Agenda. “This strategic plan had to be developed with all those partners because it’s so many of them that will be carrying out the work. We’re proud to participate in the agenda and to support its success.”

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.