Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined many plans to improve the lives of all New Yorkers during his multi-day State of the State addresses this week. The American Heart Association called on Gov. Cuomo to include public health programs in his priorities for 2021.
“The arts, green energy, telehealth, and infrastructure will all improve the lives of New Yorkers,” said Caitlin O’Brien, New York State Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association, in response to initiatives that Gov. Cuomo rolled out during the week of January 11. “But if the pandemic has made anything clear, it’s that public health is critically important. The American Heart Association and its advocates will work to make sure health is prioritized in the Governor’s budget and throughout the legislative session.”
The 2021 legislative agenda of the American Heart Association includes:
- Increasing the tobacco tax by $1 per pack of cigarettes, and creating parity for other tobacco products.
- Eliminating the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.
- Expanding SNAP incentive programs to help all New Yorkers access nutritious food.
- Maintaining funding for prevention programs that improve health, like the Obesity Prevention Program, the Healthy Heart (Hypertension) Program, and the Tobacco Control Program.
- The Tele CPR program, so that everyone has access to high-quality CPR.
“We know that people with heart disease or stroke, or with the risk factors for heart disease and stroke, are at greater risk for COVID-19, or have the potential to be more severely affected by COVID,” O’Brien said. “New York’s health prevention programs mean that more New Yorkers have the opportunity to avoid the risk factors that lead to heart disease and stroke and can exacerbate COVID.”
O’Brien said the tobacco tax can help bring dollars to state coffers and SNAP incentives can help increase access to healthy food.
“We are all concerned about the New York state economy,” she said. “The tobacco tax has the potential to generate $38 million. Along with the lives it will save, it makes this a win-win. Also, SNAP incentive program, Double-Up Food Bucks, whereby anyone making a SNAP qualified purchase gets vouchers for free fresh fruits and, means that New York products are being purchased. This is good for our farmers and New York food producers.”