As New York City's Health Commissioner, Dr. Thomas Frieden has helped the nation's largest city become a healthier place. He was behind ordinances such as a city-wide smoking ban and cutting trans fats from the city's restaurants. Dr. Oz talks with Dr. Frieden about his efforts to save the lives of New Yorkers and people all over the world.
Before taking on the title of health commissioner, Dr. Frieden says he spent five years in India, where the tuberculosis epidemic was killing more than 1,000 people every day. He says he worked to develop a successful system there to prevent the disease. When he came back to the United States as New York City's health commissioner, Dr. Frieden says he wanted to create a system like he did in India to stop the illnesses that were killing New Yorkers. "Today, heart disease and cancer are the leading cause of death in New York City," Dr. Frieden says.
Dr. Frieden says he developed a five-point program to reduce tobacco use in New York City. The program included taxing cigarettes, increasing the price of cigarettes, offering free programs to help smokers quit, changing the image of smoking through public service announcements and implementing a smoking ban in all public places, including restaurants. Dr. Frieden says New Yorkers are now cutting down their risk of cancer and heart disease dramatically. "That program is behind a really drastic decline in smoking," he says. "It is still far too common—more than a million people in New York City still smoke—but the decline has been quite substantial, probably faster than has been documented anywhere else."
Next, Dr. Frieden says he tackled another contributor to heart disease—trans fats. "Trans fats are the worst kinds of fats by far," Dr. Frieden says. "They make your bad cholesterol higher, they make your good cholesterol lower and they increase your risk of heart attack and stroke." By banning restaurants in New York from using trans fats, Dr. Frieden says restaurants all over the country have followed suit. "By issuing a regulation that only affected New York City, these large national chains are changing their whole food supply," he says.
The smoking and trans fat bans in New York City are now impacting city government decisions all over the country. Dr. Frieden says he would like to address the obesity epidemic and the healthcare system in New York and continue spreading better public health practices all over the country.