In a letter to the Bloomberg Administration, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio called on the City to ensure schools meet basic standards for providing gym class. De Blasio, a backer of Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to reduce large sugary drinks, also urged the Mayor to put forward concrete plans on nine other initiatives proposed by the New York City Obesity Task Force.
Read the full letter:
June 8, 2012
Hon. Michael Bloomberg
Mayor, City of New York
New York, NY 10007
Hon. Linda Gibbs
Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, City of New York
New York, NY 10007
Dear Mayor Bloomberg & Deputy Mayor Gibbs:
Yesterday, I stood with you at Montefiore Medical Center in support of your proposal to restrict the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages. You have established a strong, visionary legacy in matters relating to public health, and this most recent proposal complements these efforts. Obesity has become a public health epidemic and as policymakers, we have an imperative to develop comprehensive strategies to address this crisis, which has far-reaching implications for our city. The sweetened drink regulation is an important step that can help combat this growing problem.
As you know, our schools must play a critical role in this endeavor. Over the past 30 years, childhood obesity has tripled; in New York City, nearly half of all elementary school students are not at healthy weight and 20.7% of children in grades K-8 were obese in the 2010-2011 school year. These numbers are alarming, given the serious health risks associated with childhood obesity. Obese children are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, bone and joint problems, pre-diabetes, sleep apnea, and psychological problems. Over the long term, childhood obesity is associated with higher risk of heart disease, adult diabetes, and several types of cancer. By focusing on physical education and healthy eating in our schools, we can directly reduce the rate of childhood obesity, prevent its associated long-term health risks, and ensure that our children learn the habits necessary for a lifetime of healthy living.
However, we have more work to do to ensure healthy environments for our children. Comptroller Liu released a report last year on the Department of Education’s (“DOE”) compliance with the State’s physical education regulations and found that the DOE falls far short of its responsibility. I believe it is the Administration’s responsibility to bring the City’s schools into compliance with the State’s physical education requirements in order to ensure that children are receiving at least the minimum required physical education. As I am sure you will agree, this is a necessary step in combating childhood obesity.
In addition, I also believe that it is important for your office to work towards implementing the nine strategies for targeting childhood obesity that are outlined in the New York City Obesity Task Force report, titled “Reversing the Epidemic: The New York City Obesity Task Force Plan to Prevent and Control Obesity.” It is critically important that all of the childhood obesity initiatives outlined in the Task Force report are considered for implementation immediately. To that end, I request implementation plans and timelines for the following proposals:
- Promoting and expanding the Department of Education’s nutrition and wellness efforts;
- Installing water jets to establish students’ preference for water;
- Expanding the school gardens initiative to teach students about the origin and taste of healthy food;
- Installing salad bars in all New York City schools;
- Improving nutrition standards at City-licensed children’s camps;
- Increasing physical activity for elementary children through Move-To-Improve;
- Adding playground attendants who lead free physical activity programs in City parks;
- Sharing play spaces across programs such as Head Start and Shape Up NYC; and
- Increasing active transportation initiatives in schools.
I look forward to continuing to work together to combat obesity in New York City and on the implementation of these strategies that specifically target childhood obesity through work with schools. I believe that your Administration has taken a strong step towards fighting this epidemic and look forward to hearing your response concerning future work on this issue.
Bill de Blasio
Public Advocate for the City of New York