City Agency Partnership Leads to Successful Crackdowns on Illegal Cigarette Sales
Thanks to a new partnership between the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH) and NYC Department of Finance made possible by the NYC Community Transformation Grant, NYC is cracking down on the sale of cigarettes that have been illegally trafficked into NYC to evade NYC’s high cigarette prices. For example, a pack of cigarettes purchased for about $4 in Virginia can be trafficked to NYC and sold for $8—much less than a pack of cigarettes subject to taxes—providing substantial profits and still undercutting legitimate retailers. Using data provided by a number of City and State agencies, including NYC Departments of Finance, Consumer Affairs and City Planning, New York City Housing Authority, New York Police Department, and New York State Departments of Taxation and Finance and Liquor Authority, a map was developed to show the factors related to illegal cigarette sales. With these mapped data, law enforcement officials can better curb the sale of trafficked cigarettes and remove the product from the stores and communities targeted by illegal cigarette traffickers. NYC DOHMH recently went out into the field with enforcement officers from the NYC Sherriff’s office to see how it is done. The result of one successful inspection—and the officers who made it—are shown above. The officers identified a secret drawer, known as a “trap,” under a corner store’s coffee making area. Such traps are common in stores where illegal cigarettes are sold.
Above: Traps, or secret hiding places where illegal cigarettes can be stashed, are common in some corner stores in NYC. Identifying them is one of the goals of the Community Transormation Grant anti-illegal tobacco collaboration. Department of Finance Officers who helped make the inspection are pictured with Sheriff Edgar Domenech, who heads up the collaboration.
Ten Hospitals Learn About Ten Steps and Other Ways to Support Breastfeeding
With funding from the NYC Community Transformation Grant, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is helping hospitals support and promote breastfeeding through the NYC Breastfeeding Hospital Collaborative (NYC BHC). Breastfeeding exclusively for at least the first six months of life helps supports a baby’s health and reduces their risk of diabetes and respiratory and ear infections. NYC BHC held its first one and a half day learning session in September 2012, where over 50 staff from 10 hospitals came together to learn from experts about ways to improve hospital policy and practices to support breastfeeding by using the World Health Organization’s Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding as a guide. Attendees left the meeting with an action plan to guide their work, with a specific focus on ways to train staff, educate mothers, improve hospital policy, and strengthen data collection and analysis.
Bronx Organization Shows Bodega Owners are Responsive to Customers
In many NYC communities, residents have little access to healthy food. Many residents end up turning to small corner stores to meet their shopping needs; but these stores do not always carry a variety of healthy options. The Partnership for a Healthier Bronx at Institute for Family Health, in partnership with NYC DOHMH’s Shop Healthy NYC, is addressing this issue with their Adopt a Shop initiative—a project that works with store owners and food distributors to increase their healthy food options. With NYC Community Transformation Grant funds, the Institute for Family Health partnered with Cornell University Cooperative Extension, PS 218, Sheridan Academy in the Bronx, and food distributors and suppliers to evaluate the impact of an Adopt a Shop workshop. Results of the evaluation show that there is a strong willingness on the bodega owners’ part to make changes, if requested by the community, including displaying signage promoting fruit and other healthy food items, stocking dried fruit, and advertising healthy sandwich specials. As Adopt a Shop increases its reach, even more stores and residents will continue to benefit from healthier food options.
Seven NYC Hospitals Make Strides in Tobacco-Free Hospitals Campaign
New York City’s 62 hospitals open their doors to millions of patients, visitors, and staff every year, many of whom are current smokers trying to quit. NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (NYC DOHMH) Tobacco-Free Hospitals Campaign is supported by the NYC Community Transformation Grant and works with hospitals to help them update their employee and patient tobacco policies and practices, making it easier for smokers and recent quitters to quit or stay quit. The Campaign, which began in 2011, supports hospitals in adopting tobacco-free campus policies, which help smokers who are trying to quit and decreases non-smokers’ exposure to second-hand smoke; provides resources for hospitals to evaluate their cessation programs; and encourages them to provide services, such as counseling, nicotine replacement therapy, and other medications, to all employees and patients who want to quit smoking.
Seven of the 15 hospitals that participate in NYC DOHMH’s Tobacco-Free Hospitals Campaign have achieved Bronze Star Status—the first of three levels of recognition for demonstrating best practices—for creating or improving tobacco-free campus policies and offering more robust employee cessation programs.
Training Helps Providers Screen More Patients for Substance Misuse
Excessive and underage drinking is responsible for many health and social problems. The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH), with funding from the NYC Community Transformation Grant, is addressing this challenge by working with health care providers to screen for substance misuse using the Screening Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) protocol. Beyond screening, SBIRT includes intervention and referral strategies that take into account the severity of the misuse and the readiness of the patient to reduce or eliminate harmful use. So far, over 100 health care providers at three of the six sites NYC DOHMH is working with have received training on how to utilize SBIRT in their practices. In addition, these three sites, Choices Women’s Medical Center, the Institute for Family Health, and Care for the Homeless, have begun to integrate SBIRT into their practice and electronic health records. Over 260,000 patients are seen each year by the staff at trained clinics. NYC DOHMH is working with another three sites to train their providers, over 100 of them, and facilitate integration of SBIRT into their practices.
Data Help Bronx Doctor Keep Practice Patient-Centered
Dr. Maselli (above right) knows electronic health data can play an important role in improving health care delivery and access. His Bronx, New York practice, which includes his partner and six other practitioners, has been using an electronic health records system (EHR) to track patient records for over a decade. His practice also uses a patient portal that enables over 10,000 patients to directly and securely access information, including lab results, referrals, and notes, from their personal medical records. However, Dr. Maselli knows that electronic data are most useful when they support, rather than replace, in-person patient–doctor discussions.
Dr. Maselli’s practice participates in NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Primary Care Information Project (PCIP), which seeks to improve population health and the quality of primary care through health IT and data exchange. With NYC Community Transformation Grant funds, PCIP is expanding the delivery of quality dashboards—one-page emailed reports that tell providers how they are doing on sixteen quality measures compared to other providers. The dashboard displays a red dot if the provider is below average on a key indicator and a green one if the provider is doing as well as or better than other providers. Indicators include alcohol use, blood pressure, and cholesterol. A separate but complementary system alerts doctors during a patient’s visit and prompts them to address important health issues related to quality measures on the dashboard, such as offering smoking cessation advice when appropriate. “We went from some red scores that could be easily addressed either by a physician or assistant attending to alerts provided in the system to almost entirely green scores,” he says. The system has enabled him to efficiently improve the quality of care delivered by his practice without compromising face-to-face time between patient and provider.
Health Department Warns Patrons of A West Village Restaurant Of Possible Exposure To Hepatitis A From March 23 To April 2
Health Department Launches Ad Campaign Encouraging Consumers to Purchase Lower Sodium Packaged Foods
Nearly 90 percent of Americans consume too much sodium, much of which comes from packaged foods
The Health Department has launched a new ad campaign encouraging consumers to compare nutrition labels and choose products with less sodium. The ads, running in subway cars, highlight the large range of sodium in packaged foods and encourage consumers to “Compare Labels. Choose Less Sodium.” The ads will run through the month of April.
“Most of the salt in our diets comes from packaged food – food that may not even taste salty, such as bread,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “While we encourage companies to voluntarily reduce sodium in the nation’s food supply, there are steps every shopper can take now. Use labels to choose products with less sodium, a choice that could help reduce your blood pressure and decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke.”
Consumers can obtain more information on how to reduce their salt intake by calling 311 for a copy of the “Choose Less Sodium” Health Bulletin. The Health Bulletin outlines ways to cut the salt when shopping for food, eating at home, or eating out, such as:
- Choose fresh foods, which usually have less salt than packaged foods
- Check the label when buying raw meat since it often has added salt
- Cut down on salt gradually so you will be less likely to notice a difference in taste
- Be aware that some seasonings like adobo, garlic salt and lemon pepper contain salt
- Request that your meals be prepared without added salt at restaurants