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Internet resources for what you need to know about NYC Health
Five Favorite Sites For Beginners

The Topic
"Health" refers to the health issues facing the city, touching on everything from the mayor to Medicaid to managed care to mosquitoes.
The Context
New York City is one of the biggest public health challenges in the world. With 7 million residents--over 1 million of whom are uninsured--the city has the largest number of HIV cases and the largest number of intravenous drug users in the U.S. Efforts to contain a tuberculosis outbreak that threatened the city in the 1990's have been a major success--between 1992 and 1998, the deadly multi-drug resistant cases of TB declined by over 90 percent.

New York City has 20 public hospitals which served 1.5 million people in 1998 alone. Run by New York City's public Health and Hospitals Corporation, the hospital system now has a surplus of $21 million, following years of deficits and cutbacks.

The Reporter
Maia Szalavitz is author, with Dr. Joseph Volpicelli, of "Recovery Options: The Complete Guide: How You and Your Loved Ones Can Understand and Treat Alcohol and Other Drug Problems." She writes frequently on health, science and public policy for the New York Times, New York Magazine, the Village Voice, and other publications.

by Maia Szalavitz

West Nile Continues

(Sept-Oct '00) As the high risk season for West Nile infection hits New York, several new human cases have been reported. And with spraying becoming routine, accounts of people doused by pesticide and reports of ill-effects from exposure are starting to come in as well.

An artist from the Bronx who wanted to remain anonymous was doused while standing in a phone booth on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, according to the Daily News. She told the News, "I burned, I itched, I was coughing, I was choking... I really thought I was going to die." She said the spray drenched her clothes and got into her eyes, ears and mouth and that she vomited for three days following the incident.

She was treated at the emergency room at Mount Sinai Medical Center for nausea, dizziness and eye problems. A health department spokesperson told the News that the department had received over 200 complaints from people who believe they have medical problems related to the spraying.

By mid-September, eleven confirmed West Nile cases and no deaths had been reported to the New York City Department of Health. Seven of the eleven were reported in people over 60, but one Staten Island woman who was hospitalized for four days was just 40 and two other Staten Island cases were of people in their early 50s. Details of the cases in the younger people have not been reported so it is not clear whether they had medical conditions which would suppress their immune systems and make them especially susceptible.

Seven cases were reported in Staten Island residents; the other four were Brooklyn-dwellers. Ninety-nine infected birds have now been discovered and the virus has been found in mosquito populations in all five boroughs. An infected raccoon was found in Queens, but raccoons are not believed to be able to transmit the disease to humans. However, four different types of New York mosquitoes are now known to carry West Nile.

In a news conference on September 12 announcing the three latest cases, Health Commissioner Benjamin Cohen said, "This serves as a further reminder for all New Yorkers to take personal precautions to reduce exposure to mosquitoes and eliminate possible mosquito breeding grounds around their homes. The City of New York is doing everything possible to limit the spread of West Nile virus and minimize human illness, and it is likely that our efforts so far have prevented many others from becoming ill. We will continue to monitor for the presence of West Nile virus across the city and will conduct targeted mosquito control efforts as necessary."

People concerned about pesticide exposure should also take care to note the spraying schedules announced in the media and posted on the Health Department's website.

Maia's Favorite Five Sites For Beginners:

  • New York City Department of Health - Includes health alerts (including West Nile info), information on restaurant sanitary conditions and information on various health-promotion programs.
  • New York State Department of Health - More health data for New Yorkers including information on how to sign up for Child Health Plus and Family Health Plus-- the insurance programs for those who are presently not covered by other plans.
  • Medscape - This site, aimed at doctors, allows you to search Medline, the database of medical journals, for free. Abstracts of most journal articles are available for free as well. Once you have some basic knowledge about a condition you are researching, you can look here to get a sense of what is going on in terms of study in the area. There is a companion consumer-focused site, CBSHealthWatch, which is linked.
  • American Cancer Society - Half of all Americans will face cancer at some point in their lives-- and the New York and Washington-based American Cancer Society web site provides a wealth of information for those dealing with the disease. Includes links to other major cancer sites and resources.
  • AIDS Information - A sort of "AIDS central" for New York city with links to major HIV/AIDS organizations and information sites.

Other Recommendations:

  • Quackwatch - Debunks medical scams and inflated claims made by "alternative" medical practitioners.
  • - A consumer health information site, affiliated with CNN.
  • Citizen Action - Healthcare is one of the primary focuses of this New York advocacy group. Includes information on New York's health plans for low income people lacking insurance.
  • Oncolink - An incredible research resource for cancer patients and others concerned about this disease.
  • National Alliance for the Mentally Ill - An organization of advocates for people with mental illness which includes information on treatment and support for various disorders like depression, bipolar disease and schizophrenia.
  • Insure Kids Now - Information on New York state's insurance program for poor kids and information on other state's policies, from the federal government and the governors' association.

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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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