Last week, we saw the debate over the federal budget reach a fever pitch. The Republican Party demanded budget cuts, including cuts in areas that help keep our communities healthy.
Health Funding Under Attack While Health Declines
Lost in last week’s debate in Washington about increasing the debt ceiling was the impact of potentially massive public sector cuts on average Americans, especially lower income households and middle-class families. One area that can ill-afford more spending cuts is the public health sector.
In a recent ground-breaking report, F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2011, from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced that adult obesity rates increased in 16 states over the last year and did not decrease in any states. Furthermore, twenty years ago, no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent; today, 38 states have obesity rates over 25 percent and just one has a rate lower than 20 percent. Overall, two-thirds of all Americans are obese or overweight.
While NY State ranks 9th out of 50 states with a 24.7% obesity rate, the situation is more alarming among NYS’ African-American and Latino communities where 31% of African-Americans are obese (vs. 27% of Latinos and 24% of Whites) including 37% of African-American women and 24% of African-American men are obese.
The Report also describes the strong relationship between income, education, obesity, diabetes and hypertension which is often a predictor of heart disease. As one might expect, lower income and less educated households have higher obesity rates which result in higher rates of diabetes and hypertension. In Upper Manhattan, we face some of the worst levels of education, some of the highest levels of hypertension and diabetes, and high obesity rates to go along with our problem of "food deserts."
The health threat posed by the rising rates of obesity and other noncommunicable diseases has become so severe that the United Nations General Assembly is convening its first-ever High-level Meeting on noncommunicable disease prevention and control in NYC on September 19-20. The four main noncommunicable diseases - cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung diseases and diabetes - kill three in five people worldwide.
The good news is that while funding for education, afterschool programs and non-profits remains under assault, several private and public sector organizations are filling the void by providing a wide-range of free fitness programs for New Yorkers including those listed below.
LUNA Free Yoga Series
YogaLocal and LUNA are providing 500 free guest passes for yoga classes at 24 yoga studios throughout NYC including Yoga for Bliss in Riverdale, MindBodyHealth in Washington Heights and Harlem Yoga. The passes are available on a first-come first-served basis at www.lunafreeyogaseries.com
Created by the NYC Parks Dept, BeFitNYC BeFitNYC is a search engine for free and low-cost fitness activities in New York City and it lists programs, classes, facilities, and leagues in the Parks Department's properties as well as those of a number of partner groups. Visit www.befitnyc.com
City Parks Foundation
The City Parks Foundation provides free Golf, Tennis and Track & Field lessons for NYC youth under age 18 in each borough. These FREE sports programs help promote physical fitness and build self-esteem in a fun, relaxed environment. Visit http://www.cityparksfoundation.org/sports/sports.html