4:49 pm Dec. 27, 2011
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced today that life-expectancy rates in New York City are at an all-time high, a result that was "influenced" by the administration's health policies.
"If you want to live longer and healthier than the average American, then come to New York City," Bloomberg said.
Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs said, "Cleaner air, safer streets, healthier food: these all contribute to improved quality of our lives, and added years of life. This has come about through the creative ideas and determined implementation across many city agencies."
From the administration's official statement: "Influenced by New York City's aggressive public health initiatives and improvements in the quality of the health care delivery system, babies born in New York City in 2009 have the record high life expectancy of 80.6 years, an increase of nearly three years since 2000 and nearly two and a half years more than the most recently reported national rate of 78.2 years."
This is, as Times columnist Michael Powell put it, "pure upside good news," and there is no reason I can think of that Bloomberg, in his capacity as the highest-profile booster of both New York City and of the mayoralty of Michael Bloomberg, shouldn't brag about it.
But it's worth asking what factors, beyond the direct influence of the administration's health policies, contributed to this development.
Kate Taylor of the Times notes that an even bigger factor than the administration's "high-profile campaigns against smoking, obesity and the consumption of salt" was "expanded HIV testing and treatment," which helped HIV infections fall 51.9 percent since 2002.
(Independently and anecdotally, City & State editor Adam Lisberg points to the role of the mayor's calorie count in keeping New Yorkers fitter than the doughnut-scarfing rest of America.)
One thing I'm curious about is the correlation between this good news about life expectancy and gentrification in the city, by which poor people with limited dietary and health care options are effectively joined (or displaced, in some cases) by richer ones who have the financial wherewithal to take better care of themselves.
In 2001, the median income in New York City was around $41,600, and by 2009, according to the census bureau, it was $50,173*. On the other hand, the number of people living below the poverty line, as currently defined by the city, is up.
*UPDATE: I'm reminded that these income numbers don't account for the rate of inflation. The point is that there are more rich people (and poor people) and the city's demographics have changed, and it's hard to tell how that has affected the life-expentancy number independent of the mayor's policy changes.