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NYC Highlights Need For Comprehensive Health Care Reform

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Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today described New York City’s efforts to improve New Yorkers’ health by promoting disease prevention and wellness, improving the transparency and accountability of health providers and supporting the healthcare safety net. While in Washington, DC yesterday, the Mayor urged mayors in both parties to join him in supporting President Obama’s health care reform agenda. He also called on the federal government to build on New York’s reform efforts and to address the growing numbers of uninsured people and skyrocketing costs for both businesses and families. The Mayor was joined at the Ryan-NENA Community Health Center on Manhattan’s Lower East Side by 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East President George Gresham, William F. Ryan Community Health Network President and Chief Executive Officer Barbra E. Minch, Ryan-NENA Community Health Center Executive Director Kathy Gruber, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs, Health and Hospitals Corporation President Alan D. Aviles, and Health Department Assistant Commissioner Farzad Mostashari.

“President Obama has identified critical nonpartisan principles that should guide any health care reform package and I support his push to enact comprehensive health care reform this year,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Our challenge is to keep Congress at the table until they come up with a workable solution – and commit to not walking away when the going gets tough. We need to ensure that federal reform strengthens and meets the needs of immigrants. At the same time, we will continue to advance our innovative efforts here in New York City to reduce smoking, encourage healthy food choices, and invest in health information technology. We’ve heard a lot about how government has to step in when a company is ‘too big to fail.’ This push for health care reform is too important to fail. It’s too important to our cities. It’s too important to our nation. It’s a challenge we can’t flinch from – and it’s an opportunity we must seize.”

“1199 members worked in battleground states across the country to help elect President Obama so he could turn our economy around and fix our broken healthcare system. We are proud to stand with Mayor Bloomberg today to support President Obama’s healthcare reform agenda,” said 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East President George Gresham. “The President's reform agenda will help over 2 million uninsured New Yorkers gain healthcare coverage. During this economic crisis, it is more important than ever that we protect working families who have lost their jobs and benefits by providing them with access to quality healthcare. Mayor Bloomberg’s support will help drive the conversation forward and send the message to elected leaders in Washington that they must work together to achieve real healthcare reform.”

“No other city has put public health at the forefront like New York City has, and we are proud to work with Mayor Bloomberg and his administration to expand the availability of quality and affordable healthcare to those who need it,” said president and CEO of the William F. Ryan Community Health Network Barbra E. Minch. “The Ryan Network’s guiding principle is that health care is a right, not a privilege – and what we are seeing today is a renewed commitment by our local and national leaders to help fulfill those goals for all New Yorkers.”

“New York City is a leader in developing innovative, pragmatic programs which help to tackle some of our most complicated urban challenges like poverty, improving access to primary care physicians and expanding healthy food choices,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs. “But we need our federal partners to enact comprehensive healthcare reform to address the growing numbers of uninsured and underinsured New Yorkers and to bolster our safety net.”

“New Yorkers are living longer, healthier lives today because New York City invested in programs that reduce preventable illness and death,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden. “By creating a comprehensive public health and health care policy, and promoting electronic health records for primary care physicians, we are focusing on what works and saving lives.”

“Greater access, more transparency, robust primary and preventive care, wide-scale use of electronic health records, and more effective chronic disease management are all priorities of the Obama administration reform agenda,” said HHC President Alan D. Aviles. “They also have been the hallmark of our transformed New York City public hospital system.”

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Mayor Bloomberg discussed New York City’s successes in promoting two of the key principles President Obama has outlined in his plan: promoting prevention and wellness, and improving quality of care by stressing rigorous accountability and transparency. New York has made tremendous strides in improving the health of New Yorkers in recent years through prevention, improving patient care, and investing in innovative technology.

Take Care New York

Take Care New York encourages New Yorkers to work with primary care providers to meet specific, achievable goals that will improve their own health. The City reports on the progress of Take Care New York regularly and has already met seven out of 10 ambitious public health goals set in 2004. By 2007, the most recent year on record, New Yorkers had surpassed 2008 targets within four of the program’s priority areas: colon cancer screening, regular access to primary health care, tobacco smoking, and intimate partner homicide. Since Take Care New York was launched, the City has also narrowed health gaps among racial and ethnic groups in colon cancer screening and access to primary health care. The number of blacks getting colonoscopies is up 83 percent, while the number of Hispanic New Yorkers getting colonoscopies is up by 66 percent closing longstanding disparities in screening rates. Black New Yorkers are also now nearly as likely as whites to report having a regular doctor.

Electronic Health Records

New York City has created the nation’s largest primary care electronic health record community network. It has provided more than 1,100 doctors with more than a million patients in low-income communities with a prevention-focused EHR. EHRs bring prevention front and center in every doctor’s visit by giving doctors the information that they need when they need it about patient vaccinations, screenings, and other essential disease prevention measures. The Health Department is also working with providers who have EHRs to incorporate key prevention measures into their systems and practices and share quality information. EHRs also allow doctors – in many cases for the first time – to actually understand how many patients they are treating and how well they are doing in preventing illness. With that data, EHRs also create the potential to reward doctors for actually keeping people healthy. Today, the potential of EHRs is barely being realized; it has been estimated that across the nation, for example, fewer than two percent of hospitals have installed comprehensive EHRs. By including more than $20 billion in funding for EHRs in Federal stimulus funding, President Obama shows he understands just how much our health care system needs a strong dose of disruptive innovation.

Health and Hospitals Corporation

New York City’s public hospitals are national leaders in reporting on health outcomes and patient safety. Infection rates in the intensive care units of the 11 HHC hospitals are down for the third year in a row and have dramatically dropped since HHC launched a patient safety program to reduce preventable deaths and unnecessary hospital stays. HHC achieved a 90 percent reduction in the rate of ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) and a 65 percent reduction in the rate of central line bloodstream infections among adult patients in intensive care units. The new 2008 rates are posted on the HHC In Focus section of the Web site, www.nyc.gov/hhc, as part of the public hospital system’s transparency initiative to voluntarily share information on hospital quality and safety with the public. The decline in infection rates represent more than 1,000 infections prevented and a savings of nearly $16 million in healthcare costs.

In addition to the progress in preventing hospital-acquired infections, the 2008 data posted on HHC’s Web site show that its system-wide mortality rate continued to stay below national benchmarks despite a significant increase in the average acuity of patients. HHC mortality rates decreased by 13 percent from 2003 to 2008, representing approximately 1,830 lives saved during that period.