The pen is mightier than the pill

New York City now has its highest-ever life expectancy. The NYC Health Department recently reported that a baby born in 2009 would have an 80.6 year life span (women 82 years and men 76.3 years). This is 17 months greater than in 2006 and 31 months longer than in 2001. This surpasses the national average of 78.2 years. Who would have figured, New Yorkers outliving average Americans.

A large contribution was the decline in deaths due to AIDS. This is a nationwide phenomenon, though, so one would not think this would necessarily raise New Yorkers’ life span to greater than the American average. Other, stroke-of-the-pen, changes in health policy also likely contributed. In the last decade the city ended smoking in bars and restaurants, raised taxes on cigarettes (remember Prop 29, California’s most recent effort to increase tobacco taxes, which narrowly lost), took on the obesity epidemic, banned trans-fats from restaurant foods, and most recently took on the Big Gulp!

Really? Could that trans-fat ban really result in a change in restaurant and big chain behavior? Well, a recent publication by Angell et al documented a significant decrease in the amount of trans-fat in purchased fast-food meals in New York City.1 The amount and types of food bought from 2007 to 2009 didn’t change much but the overall mean decrease of trans-fats was 2.5 g per purchase, led by a 3.8 g decrease seen in hamburger chains. The maximum trans-fat content per purchase decreased from a whopping 28 g to 5g. Wholly cow!

Good for New York City. And good for us! Why? It seems one of the leading proponents of the Mayor Bloomberg-led efforts to “take the handle off the pump” was assistant health commissioner, Dr. Lynn Silver. Dr. Silver has just recently joined us as our new Health Officer for Sonoma County!!

Welcome Dr. Silver!

Marshall Kubota, MD

  1.  Angell SY et al. Change in trans fatty acid content of fast-food purchases associated with New York City’s restaurant regulation.  Ann Intern Med 2012 Jul 17; 157:81.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>