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Feature Public health policy in New York City

What’s next for public health in a post-Bloomberg NYC?

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 18 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6272
  1. Karen McColl, freelance writer
  1. 1Savoie, France
  1. karenmccoll{at}

On 5 November New Yorkers will elect a new mayor to succeed Michael Bloomberg. Karen McColl looks back at the legacy of the man who has been labelled “the world’s first public health mayor” and what we can expect from his successor

In the five years since the BMJ reported on the bold approach being adopted in New York City by its mayor, Michael Bloomberg, the city has continued to push ahead on public health. After the bans on smoking in public places and trans fats in restaurant foods, came 200 miles of cycle lanes, a bike share scheme and 500 “Green Cart” permits for mobile fruit and vegetable vendors. The health department has tried to reduce sugary drink intakes through a public information campaign and by proposing a limit on the portion size of sugary drinks. Not always universally popular, derided by libertarian commentators, and under constant attack from vested interests, these measures have earned Michael Bloomberg and the city’s health department admiration from the international public health community.

Bloomberg’s legacy

The city’s top health official, health commissioner Thomas Farley, is in no doubt about Bloomberg’s health legacy. “He is the first mayor of a major world level city who has really championed public health and demonstrated how public health approaches can be successful and improve health outcomes.” Bloomberg’s three terms—the City Council ruled to temporarily extend the mayoral two term limit, allowing him to be elected for a third term—have stretched from the months just after 9/11 to the era of Obamacare. During that time, average life expectancy in New York City has increased by three years to 80.9 years (on top of big gains in the 1990s), which makes it 2.2 years longer than for the United States as a …

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