(Garrison, NY) As New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg prepares to leave office, a commentary by a leading bioethicist analyzes his controversial public health policies and concludes that he is an urban innovator who created a new paradigm of public health, "reaching beyond infectious diseases to upstream risk factors in everyday life and the human habitat." The commentary appears in the Hastings Center Report.
Lawrence O. Gostin, University Professor and Founding O'Neill Chair in Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law Center, focuses on Bloomberg's major policies to address the obesity epidemic, improve disease surveillance, increase physical activity, and control tobacco use.
Of the policies on diet and nutrition, Gostin cites as particularly successful the city's limit on trans fatty acids, which "provide no health benefit and are unsafe at any level." In 2006, the city required that any food served to customers (unless in a sealed package) contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving. "Although the trans fat limit received a warmer public response than other diet-related policies, it still met opposition from restaurants and civil libertarians," Gostin writes. However, the city's limit on trans fats served as a model in the United States and globally, "and low trans fat has now become a widely accepted norm."
Gostin also cites Mr. Bloomberg's tobacco policies, which have dramatically reduced smoking: "Between 2002 and 2011, the rate of smoking fell from 21.5 percent to 41.8 percent among adults and from 17.5 percent to 8.5 percent among youth." Although it is impossible to point to any single tobacco policy, Bloomberg implemented "a range of policies (e.g., taxes, labeling, smoke-free laws, and advertising restrictions) that worked in combination over time to
|Contact: Susan Gilbert|
The Hastings Center