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Community Profile: New York City, New York

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Obesity and Tobacco Use Prevention

A school-aged boy and girl running on a playground with a prominent sign reading 'Smoke Free Zone' and shelves of fresh vegetables at a farmers’ market

— Luis G. Manzo, PhD, University Director of Mental Health and Wellness Services, CUNY

Additional Resources

For more information, please visit

— Stephen, New York City resident

Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) is an initiative designed to make healthy living easier by promoting environmental changes at the local level. Through funding awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2010, a total of 50 communities are working to prevent obesity and tobacco use—the two leading preventable causes of death and disability.

Community Overview

New York City, New York, is tackling obesity and tobacco use throughout the community of 8.4 million residents. More than half (57%) of the adults in New York City are overweight or obese, and 27.3% of adults reported no regular physical activity in the past 30 days. Further, approximately 39% of New York City Public School children in kindergarten through eighth grade are overweight or obese, compared to 35.5% of children aged 6-11 nationally.

Tobacco use is also a serious health concern in New York City—smoking is the number one preventable cause of death in the city and the nation. While New York City has implemented successful tobacco prevention interventions and adult smoking rates have dropped in recent years, approximately 14% of adults in New York City still smoke, and the smoking rate of New York City teens is 7%. Obesity and tobacco use are disproportionately prevalent among certain populations. For example, 15% of white elementary school students in New York City are obese, compared with 26% of Hispanics and 21% of blacks. In addition to obesity and tobacco use prevention efforts aimed at New York City’s entire population, certain initiatives target high-risk groups.

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Community Successes

If healthy options are not available, then healthy living is not possible. With the support of the CPPW initiative, New York City has implemented a variety of changes throughout the community to make healthy living easier.

To decrease the prevalence of obesity, New York City:

  • Installed water jets in 229 public schools, providing access to free drinking water for more than 221,000 students and staff who previously may have had access to water only through vending machines.
  • Unveiled public education campaigns that discourage excessive salt and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. An evaluation of the sugar-sweetened beverage campaign, Pouring on the Pounds, found that 75% of respondents recalled seeing one or more of the campaign ads.
  • Launched a physical activity campaign in June 2011 that encourages New Yorkers to Make NYC Your Gym ( by leveraging public resources like parks, attending free exercise classes, and using active transportation.
  • Improved the standards for New York City agencies serving food in schools, childcare centers, afterschool programs, senior centers, homeless shelters, hospitals, and prisons, making fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy beverages more prominent in an estimated 260 million meals and snacks served per year.

To decrease tobacco use, New York City:

  • Supported the expansion of the city’s smoke-free air law to include all New York City parks, beaches, and pedestrian plazas, including New York’s Central Park. Now, more than 1,700 parks and 14 miles of beaches are healthier for approximately 68 million visitors per year.
  • Supported CUNY’s efforts to create an environment in which all students, staff, and visitors to the public university system can enjoy tobacco-free campuses. More than half a million students and about 40,000 staff will benefit through less exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Provided training to more than 200 mental-health and substance abuse treatment programs to increase staff capacity to integrate tobacco dependence treatment into client services.
  • Enrolled 23 community health centers serving nearly 400,000 patients in Health eQuits, a pay-for-performance project that encourages health care providers to offer counseling and medication to identified smokers.

(The list above is a sample of all activities completed by the community.)

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New York City Increases Physical Activity in Public Elementary Schools

The Move-to-Improve (MTI) program is allotting more time for physical activity among elementary students in New York City public schools that previously did not meet the state physical education requirement of 120 minutes per week. The program trains teachers to conduct Fitness Breaks, or 10-minute segments of physical education, right in their classrooms. The 2,000 teachers trained thus far are reaching more than 50,000 New York City students. A program evaluation found that MTI-trained classrooms averaged three sessions of physical activity per day, while untrained classrooms averaged just one.

New York City Expands Annual Nicotine Patch and Gum Giveaway Program

CPPW funding enabled the New York City Health Department to enhance its annual Nicotine Patch and Gum Giveaway Program. In 2011, the Health Department launched a public education campaign, Suffering, to motivate viewers who used tobacco to enroll in the program. Residents were able to register online through the newly launched NYC Quits smoking cessation web application (, which offers health information, access to interactive tools, and membership to an online community of smokers who want to quit. As a result of these efforts, more than 39,000 New York City smokers participated in the program.

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Leadership Team

The leadership team includes high-level community leaders from multiple sectors, who have the combined resources and capacity to make healthy living easier. Members of New York City’s leadership team are key agents for change in their community. The leadership team includes representatives from the following organizations:

  • New York City Office of the Mayor
  • Borough of Brooklyn Ecumenical Advisory Group
  • Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
  • Citizens Committee for Children
  • City University of New York
  • Greater New York Hospital Association
  • New York City Coalition for a Smoke-Free City
  • New York City Department of Education
  • New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
  • New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
  • New York City Department of Transportation
  • New York City Food and Fitness Partnership
  • New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation
  • New York City Housing Authority
  • The Partnership for New York City
  • World Lung Foundation

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  • Page last reviewed: October 25, 2013
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