It was a small turnout this Wednesday at the New York City Mayoral Candidate Forum on Public Health, hosted by Long Island University of Brooklyn. Nonetheless, a few major themes emerged from those four candidates that were able to attend.
Mayoral Candidate William Thompson brought up the Cincinnati community school model, where basic health services such as BMI screenings, testing for diabetes, and mental health counseling are provided at public schools. The model sits on the notion that schools should serve as centers for health-promotion and prevention. Candidate Thompson would like to see this model brought to NYC, as well as expanded to include programs for physical activity and specialized services by trained health professionals.
Candidate Tom Allon hinted on the Cincinnati school model through his mention of city joint-use agreements, which allow shared use of public property. The past ten years show that NYC has opened up to the idea of joint-use agreements, as can be seen by the PlaNYC Schoolyards to Playgrounds Initiative. However, this year’s mayoral candidates feel that schools themselves remain an untapped potential when it comes to city joint-use policy. Candidate Allon sees potential behind utilizing schools during evenings and weekends for public health services for all ages.
All candidates agree that Mayor Bloomberg’s public health policies, including the Soda Ban, have not done enough to dig into the communities and reduce health disparities. Mayoral Candidate Sal Albanese highlighted the importance behind community-based organizations, noting that they must be included in the city budget and decision-making . Candidate John Liu suggested ridding CBOs of stress from city funding by reducing paperwork and allowing them to do their job.
While the ideas mentioned may seem repetitive, their collective presence at the Mayoral Candidate Forum on Public Health symbolizes NYC’s ongoing efforts to conjure cost-effective and creative approaches to tackling public health issues at the municipal level. How we approach “food policy” depends on the next mayor’s approach to public health as a whole.