Health & Human Services

De Blasio Names Ex-Bloomberg Official as Health Chief But Vows New Approach

January 17, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who supported many of his predecessor’s health policies, from smoking bans to restrictions on the sale of large sugary drinks, on Thursday named a former top Bloomberg administration health official, Dr. Mary T. Bassett, as his health commissioner.

But, even while he praised former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s efforts to reduce smoking and obesity, Mr. de Blasio said that his administration would take a more sensitive tack, seeking advice from communities about the best ways to address problems in their midst.

“It is about a more community-friendly, community-focused approach,” he said.

Dr. Bassett, who was a deputy health commissioner under Mr. Bloomberg, seconded his approach.

“Everyone shares the goal: They want their children to be healthy so they can go to school and learn,” Dr. Bassett said, as Mr. de Blasio nodded approvingly. “Health is such a critical resource for everything we do in life, so it stands to reason that communities should be our ally in this process.”

Their comments reflected some of the debate over the Bloomberg administration’s more criticized efforts. Several minority lawmakers opposed the proposed ban on large sodas, saying that it would disproportionately affect the poor and minority residents, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed a brief in support of the beverage industry’s lawsuit to block the regulation.

Two lower-court judges ruled against the city. The state Court of Appeals is expected to take up the case this year. Mr. de Blasio, who spoke up in favor of the soda restriction during the campaign, reiterated his support on Thursday, saying he believed the city was in “a strong legal position.”

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