Will Money Improve NYC’s Health?

You know, there’s a reason why famous sayings are, well, famous sayings. It’s because they’re true and they usually sum up this truth is just a few words so as to package their neat truism in a tidy little box.

BMJ’s article, New York’s road to health, quickly brought to mind one of those sayings in just two simple words:

Money Talks

If you’ll allow me to though, I’m going to add three words to this saying to make it even more apropos for this topic:

Across the Board Money Talks

NYCIn Karen McColl’s feature story, New York’s daring health initiatives are summarized with an emphasis on the role that current New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, plays in these events.

New York City has plenty to boast about when it comes to health mandates that have successfully been put in place: the Smoke Free Air Act, the phasing out of trans fatty acids from many restaurants, and requiring certain restaurant menu items to list calorie information. But the most recent health initiative is the one that I found surprising.

As part of a pilot project, selected low-income families can earn money for taking care of themselves and their families. How much money?

  • Maintaining subsidized health insurance — $20 per parent group, $20 for all children
  • Keeping up private or employer insurance for the entire family — $50/month
  • Attending an annual medical check-up — $200 per family member
  • Attending suggested follow-up visits within the correct timeframe — $100 per family member
  • Attending regular preventive dental check-ups — $100 per family member

It is suggested that Mayor Bloomberg’s unique leadership and personal qualities are largely responsible for enabling New York City to make such huge and powerful public health gains. Not only is he highly dedicated to public health in general, he has money.

Bloomberg is a private philanthropist who donates vast amounts of money to health causes. Plus, his connections and personal monetary strength means that he has a wide breadth of influence.

I’m not suggesting that the city’s success hinges upon Bloomberg’s wealth. In fact, Dr. Frieden, the health commissioner doesn’t mince words. He states:

None of these things would have been possible without [Mayor Bloomberg’s] leadership. It took a lot of political effort to get these things through, and it involved taking a lot of political heat to do the right thing. They are all now very popular, but getting them through meant standing up to vested interests and doing things that lead to a fairly brutal critique in the tabloid newspapers. And Mayor Bloomberg was willing to do that because he knew that it would save lives.

The barriers that prevent disadvantaged families from taking care of their health are beyond the scoop of this article but I am optimistic that this plan will work because money is behind the initiatives. From both the man who is the “face” of the program to the money provided to the families who follow the requirements, money is involved. And money talks.


McColl, K. (2008). New York’s road to health. BMJ, 337(jul08 3), a673-a673. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.a673

J. R. White

J. R. White is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. She has over five years of experience in education and pedagogy.
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