Valentine’s Day Rally Urges Legislature To Maintain Public Health Programs

Caitlin O’Brien, center, at mic, New York state government relations director for the American Heart Association, speaks during the public health rally at the state Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 14. The American Heart Association was one of 17 groups invested in public health that gathered to urge the state Legislature to reject the executive budget’s proposed consolidation and 20 % cut to public health programs. Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan and chair of the Assembly Health Committee, and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, also joined the group.

The state’s Asthma Program. Funding to fight high blood pressure. The Obesity and Diabetes Program. The Physically Handicapped Children’s program. Maternal and child health programs.

Those are just some of the programs that could suffer under the proposed executive budget, which calls for a consolidation of public health spending, and a 20 percent reduction of that spending. That follows last year’s 20 percent cut.

Today, Wednesday, Feb. 14, at the New York State Capitol, representatives from some of the 17 groups that advocate for public health gathered to oppose the consolidation. Assembly members Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, chair of the Assembly Health Committee; and Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, joined the groups.

“Obesity and high blood pressure are enormous risk factors for heart disease and stroke, the No. 1 and No. 5 killers in America,” said Cardiologist Dr. Suzie Mookherjee, a member of the American Heart Association’s Founders Affiliate Board. “The Obesity and Diabetes Prevention Program and the Hypertension Program can help people live the kind of healthy lifestyle that reduces their risk of these chronic – too often fatal – diseases. Obesity-related diseases cost the state $11.8 billion annually. The American Heart Association urges the Legislature to reject the consolidation and cuts to public health programs, and invest in the health of all New Yorkers.”

“Cutting services to kids and families suffering with chronic illnesses is unconscionable – especially when the services and programs on the chopping block have already proven to be an effective means to improving public health and saving the state money on healthcare costs,” said Kristina Wieneke, Director of Public Policy for the American Lung Association in New York. “These programs have served as models of success for the country, with the State Asthma Program alone serving over 67,000 children with asthma and showing results when it comes to keeping kids out of emergency rooms.  Why should the state budget be balanced on their backs?”

“The American Diabetes Association is very disappointed that Governor Cuomo is again proposing to reduce health department funds, threatening cuts for obesity and type 2 diabetes prevention,” said Stephen Habbe, director, state government affairs for the American Diabetes Association. “Obesity is a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.  More than 2 million adults already have diabetes in New York, devastating so many lives and costing more than $21 billion annually.  The ADA urges legislators to maintain funding for the state’s critical work to address obesity and reduce the associated burden of diabetes.”

“The YMCA has a long-standing commitment to community health programming,” said Kyle Stewart, Executive Director of the Alliance of New York State YMCAs. “We stand with our partners to ensure adequate funding and resources for chronic disease prevention and management initiatives. We call on the Legislature to oppose funding cuts and consolidation of vital public health programs that benefit millions of New Yorkers.”

“We cannot afford to burden New Yorkers with the proposed budget cuts. The cost of doing so will be detrimental to our communities,” said Erin Sinisgalli, MPH, MCHES, executive director New York State Public Health Association. “Public Health funding has allowed us to accomplish things such as supporting moms who are learning to breastfeed, training school teachers to incorporate physical activity into the school day and making streets safer for children to walk and bike to school- all proven strategies that help to prevent childhood obesity. Turning the clocks back on this progress will have a devastating impact on generations to come.”

“The New York State Association of Rural Health urges the state Legislature to reject the Governor’s proposal to combine 30 disease prevention, patient support and health workforce appropriations and to reduce aggregate funding by 20%,” said Jackie Leaf, executive director of the New York State Association of Rural Health. “These proposed cuts will result in job losses, and with their multiplying effects, will have a direct damaging impact on fragile rural economies.  These programs save both lives and money!  Evidence-based lifestyle, screening and supportive services provided by NYSARH members further the state’s goals to reduce the impact of chronic diseases, reduce emergency room utilization, enhance access to care and develop healthier rural residents.”

“Communities like the Bronx with the poorest health outcomes in the entire state of New York, but where great community health initiatives are underway, cannot afford any loss in public health dollars,” said Charmaine Ruddock, Project Director at the Institute for Family Health’s Bronx Health REACH.

“Local health departments are deeply committed to the advancement of New York State’s Prevention Agenda. Programs to combat chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and other smoking-related diseases, diabetes, adult and childhood obesity, children’s asthma, maternal and infant mortality, are only a handful of the programs now at risk for continuation due to this proposed cut,” said Dr. Carol Smith, commissioner of health and mental health for Ulster County, and president of the New York State Association of County Health Officials. “A 20% reduction will negatively impact programs that support the Governor’s Prevention Agenda, his Health Across the Lifespan initiative, the Women’s agenda, and the First 1,000 Days on Medicaid, Value-Based Payment, and DSRIP goals. We need to strengthen our own New York State health protection infrastructure, historically supported by local health departments with deep ties to the communities they serve, and restore the funding so seriously needed.”

“The New York State AHEC (Area Health Education Center) System is a proven health workforce leader from pipeline to practice,” said Leishia B. Smallwood, MPA, Director, New York State AHEC System. “Using cost-effective, outcomes-driven strategies, AHECs keep much-needed skills and talents in New York. The draconian budget proposal for consolidation and another 20% cut would make it impossible for AHEC to continue to provide these essential programs to our communities. We strongly urge that this proposal be rejected in the final state budget.”

The groups calling for the maintenance of the public health programs are:

  • The American Heart Association
  • The American Lung Association
  • The Alliance of New York State YMCAs
  • The American Diabetes Association
  • Maternity and Early Childhood Foundation
  • The New York State Association for Rural Health
  • The Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy
  • The New York State Area Health Education Center
  • The University of Rochester
  • The New York State Academy of Family Physicians
  • The New York State Public Health Association
  • Leading Age New York
  • The Medical Society of the State of New York
  • The Empire State Association of Assisted Living
  • The Association of Perinatal Networks of New York
  • The New York State Association of County Health Officials
  • The March of Dimes


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