Archive for the tag 'department of health'

Stained glass at the Cloisters shows baby Jesus’ bris, in which some accounts say he received metzitzah b’peh. (Source: pboothe/Flickr)

BETWEEN THE LINES: As soon as the New York City Department of Health (DOH) established a regulation recently to require written parental consent before a circumcision, several rabbis and Jewish groups asked a federal court to prevent its enforcement, claiming it is safe and called the ruling an unconstitutional breach of freedom of religion.

The focus of the dispute is a specific act performed during the procedure. After the mohel, who conducts the circumcision or bris, removes the foreskin from the penis of an eight-day-old Jewish baby boy, he carries out the ultra-Orthodox tradition of metzitzah b’peh — cleansing the wound by sucking blood from the cut.

In most modern circumcisions, the mohel uses gauze or a tiny sterile pipe to remove blood during the bris.

Not being well informed about Orthodox rituals, I never heard of that explicit act and was somewhat shocked to read about it. When I get a paper cut, I often suck the wound, but I’d never ask someone else to do it.

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Source: Produnis via Wikimedia Commons

The New York City Health Department will now require parents to give written consent before a mohel can perform an obscure circumcision ritual performed by ultra-Orthodox Jewish sects.

The department believes that one aspect of the ritual, the “metzitzah b’peh,” in which the mohel sucks blood from the child’s penis during the circumcision, may not be safe. The ritual is common among ultra-Orthodox groups, but less common in other Jewish sects. The Department of Health now requires a consent form before allowing the practice.

“We have clearly identified that one specific procedure that is performed as part of some circumcisions, what we are calling direct oral suction, can be transmitting infections to infants that will make them seriously ill and some situations lead to their death,” said Dr. Jay Varma, of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to CBS Local.

The New York City Health Department claims 11 babies contracted the herpes virus due to the ritual. Two of the babies died.

Local Councilmen David Greenfield and Lewis Fidler have come forward to say that they’d support any parents pursuing a lawsuit against the Department of Health on the grounds of interfering with practitioners’ religion.

“I really think this is a real invasion into people’s religious freedom,” Fidler said to the Daily Jewish Forward. “It lacks a sufficient basis and justification. The evidence here supporting this decision is just not strong enough.”

Previously, Senator David Storobin also expressed opposition to the Department of Health bill.

Bug out, Marine Park! Bug out, Mill Basin! Bug out, Gerritsen Beach!

Who gets the bugs out? (Department of Health, Health, Health). What get’s the bugs…

Okay, I’m done. The point is, the Health Department will spray pesticide from trucks to reduce risk of West Nile virus activity in and around our coverage area tomorrow, August 23, between 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., weather permitting.

The areas to be sprayed are:

  • Parts of Canarsie, East Flatbush, Flatlands, Georgetown, Marine Park, Mill Island, Mill Basin, Paerdegat Basin, Spring Creek and Starrett City.
  • The boundaries of spraying are Linden Boulevard, Rockaway Parkway, Ralph Avenue, Flatlands Avenue and Greenwood Road to the north; Nostrand Avenue and Gerritsen Avenue to the west; Belt Parkway to the south; and Spring Creek and 78 Street to the east.
  • The zip codes affected are 11207, 11208, 11210, 11229, 11234, 11236 and 11237.

The Health Department recommends that people take the following precautions to minimize direct exposure to the pesticide:

  • Stay indoors during spraying, especially if you have asthma or other respirator conditions.
  • Air conditioners may remain on, but you should close the vent or choose the re-circulate function.
  • Remove children’s toys, outdoor equipment, and clothes from outdoor areas during spraying. If outdoor equipment or toys are exposed to pesticides, wash them with soap and water before using again.
  • Wash skin and clothing exposed to pesticides with soap and water.

In case of bad weather, spraying will be rescheduled for Monday, August 27 during the same hours.

Mayoral candidate and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is making attempts to reduce the fines the city presents to restaurants with health violations, reported the Daily News.

Quinn is now in the process of drafting legislation to change New York City’s restaurant-grading system, and thereby help restaurants forced to empty their cash registers due to the large fines they have encountered.

According the News, City Hall expects to collect $48 million in restaurant fines this fiscal year. Records indicate that this reflects a 50 percent increase from fines collected in 2009.

“They are definitely working on the bill,” said the counsel to the New York City Hospitality Alliance, Robert Bookman to the Daily News. “There’s a universal feeling among the City Council that something must be done to rein in the Health Department.”

Sources told the News that the bill is set to induce changes in fines that include issues not pertaining to food, put appearance. The legislation is also expected to waive fines for restaurants that appeal a low inspection grade and then receive an A.

Quinn declined to comment on the details of the bill, but in the past, she asked the Department of Health to modify its inspection system to copy the simplistic, 100-point system used in Los Angeles. New York City restaurants are currently graded on a complicated 1,200-point system, said the News.

The move comes less than a month after another mayoral candidate, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, announced he would sue the mayor’s office for data on small-business related fines, which have ballooned from $485 million in the 2002 fiscal year, when Bloomberg was elected, to a whopping $820 million in this past fiscal year. Both efforts reflect the role small businesses will play in next year’s mayoral elections, as candidates seek to gain the support of small business owners who say they’ve seen their bottom lines diminish under increased regulation during the Bloomberg Administration.


Several local businesses routinely express frustration to Sheepshead Bites about the number of fines the city has doled out, whether it be for trash, health inspections or obscure signage regulations. And, according to the complaints we get, it seems inspectors of businesses are unfamiliar with many of the regulations and sometimes apply them inconsistently.

But though it may seem like the city is cracking down and issuing more fines as the city struggles with the economic recession, data on the number of fines given out has been hard to come by.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is trying to fix that. He has announced his plans to sue Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city agencies in order to force them to reveal information regarding the amount of fines given, and the income generated from those fines.

Currently, there are 20 agencies involved in small businesses-related regulations. According to an analysis performed by de Blasio’s office, cited by the New York Times, fines collected by these organizations have jumped from $485 million in the 2002 fiscal year, when Bloomberg was elected, to a whopping $820 million in this past fiscal year.

De Blasio told the paper that he has been pushing six of the offices involved in regulating small businesses to release information about these fines for several months now. He said that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Department of Consumer Affairs told him they were in the process of compiling a response. The Transportation Department, Sanitation Department, Buildings Department and Finance Department failed to reply to his requests.

“We’re just not going to stand for it anymore,” de Blasio told the paper.

Marc LaVorgna, Bloomberg’s spokespman said the city will respond to de Blasio and provide this information soon. He argued that the main source of rise in fines over the past 10 years is driving tickets. The fines have increased for parking tickets and moving violations, while more tickets for running red lights have been distributed, as the city installed more cameras by traffic lights.

Source: New Yorkers for Beverage Choices

If the battle to kill a proposed ban on large sugary drinks were likened to World War II, the Southern Brooklyn coastline played the role of Normandy this weekend.

The soda industry lobby unleashed an all-out assault on the densely packed beach at Coney Island, with dozens of activists on the sand and a banner-carrying plane overhead in an effort to win the public’s hearts, diets and wallets. From there, they established an outpost at the United Artists theater, also jam-packed with movie-goers escaping the brutal heat outside, with clipboard-wielding workers in T-shirts stating, “I picked out my beverage all by myself,” and pro-soda ads screened before every film.

New Yorkers for Beverage Choice, the beverage industry lobby group behind the push, flew this banner over the Coney Island and Rockaway beaches this weekend and on July 4 as part of an effort to educate New Yorkers about the ramifications of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on large sugary drinks.

Several weeks ago, Bloomberg’s Administration has proposed a ban on beverages like soda in containers larger than 16-ounces in New York City restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas, coffee shops, delis, pizza shops, and food trucks or carts.

“No one tells us what neighborhood to live in, what team to root for, or what deli to eat at,” said New Yorkers for Beverage Choice in a video on their website, entitled “Where Will it End?”

The goals of New Yorkers for Beverage Choice are to convey to New Yorkers that standing up to the Bloomberg Administration’s ban is about defending their freedom and rights, and to persuade them to sign petitions and submit comments to the Board of Health to ensure their voice is heard.

The city’s Board of Health will decide whether or not to endorse Bloomberg’s proposal after a public hearing on July 24.

Source: Gravitywave/Flickr

It’s summer! Yes, that means nice weather and sunny days at the beach, but it also means nights filled with annoying buzzes, itching and scratching.

It’s mosquito season!

As the weather gets warmer and mosquito season commences, residents of coastal communities surrounding the Jamaica Bay area will be especially susceptible to bites, as the national park is not sprayed with mosquito repellant for environmental reasons.

New York Magazine, which predicts this year to be the worst year in recent history thanks to the mild winter, put all of our thoughts to words when they described mosquitoes: “Biologists call mosquitoes commensals, from the Latin indicating that we share the same table. The table is our lives, in the summer. The meal is our blood.”

Could anyone have put that in a better way?

To avoid those irritating bloodsuckers from taking bites “off your table,” those living around Jamaica Bay should take the proper precautionary steps. You can stop those bites and make this summer a better one than last!

A city Health Department survey cited by the Daily News showed that mosquitoes are attracted to buckets of water left outside, flower pots, and even soda cans.  The survey said that these are the chief mosquito breeding spots on private property. So do yourselves a favor and get rid of those half empty soda cans. Don’t just toss them in your garbage can. That will attract the bugs. Pour the soda out and rinse the can so that when you throw it out, the can is soda free. Also, be sure to keep your buckets of water and pretty flower pots inside. If the flowers are making you sneeze while indoors, its best to avoid them altogether.

Also, those living in Jamaica Bay stay indoors after dark, when mosquitoes are most rampant. Quickly close the doors to your houses when you come and go, so the bugs do not sneak in and make you look and feel like you have the chicken pox again. When late nights outdoors cannot be avoided, make sure to wear long sleeves and pants, and expose as little skin as possible so that you stay protected from those small little biters. It is also recommended that families spray themselves with insect repellant, especially if they plan to spend time outdoors.

And even if you can handle the discomfort that the  bites bring with them, there is another reason why all should remain protected against mosquitoes. Mosquitoes sometimes carry the West Nile Virus, which they can transmit to humans through bites. The first time that this virus was detected in New York was in 1999, which left the Health Department confused and surprised. Since then, the virus returned to New York year after year. Last year, 11 New York City residents were infected, two of whom lost their lives to the virus.

So before those wretched, disease carrying insects invade Brooklyn, prepare yourselves and follow the advice given above. Don’t give them a reason to choose you to be a part of their next meal.

SUGAR! (Source: Uwe Hermann/Flickr)

BETWEEN THE LINES:  Somewhere in TV heaven, Brooklyn icon Ralph Kramden is so annoyed and likely supports the legions of angry New Yorkers, who are upset over Mayor Bloomberg’s latest proposal, that he’s been shouting, “How sweet it ain’t.”

New Yorkers with expanding waistlines have visibly ignored repeated advice from health pros and nutritionists that too much sugar may lead to a variety of health-related issues.

But don’t fret: Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a veteran proponent of healthier lifestyles, is on our case.

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From the New York Times:

New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity.

The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.

The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores.

… The mayor, who said he occasionally drank a diet soda “on a hot day,” contested the idea that the plan would limit consumers’ choices, saying the option to buy more soda would always be available.

“Your argument, I guess, could be that it’s a little less convenient to have to carry two 16-ounce drinks to your seat in the movie theater rather than one 32 ounce,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a sarcastic tone. “I don’t think you can make the case that we’re taking things away.”

He also said he foresaw no adverse effect on local businesses, and he suggested that restaurants could simply charge more for smaller drinks if their sales were to drop.

It’s really easy to joke about colonoscopies. Like the one about Johnnie Cochran’s first checkup, when, through clenched teeth, he reminded the doc that if the camera don’t fit, he must acquit. Or the guy who asked his doctor to provide a note for his wife making clear that his head was not, in fact, up there. Or… okay, okay, I’ll stop.

So the topic of rectal health may spur on some silly jokes. But it’s still a serious matter. Dead serious.

After all, colon cancer – a preventable and treatable disease – remains the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths, killing approximately 1,400 New Yorkers every year, according to the New York City Department of Health.

And Russian-Americans are lagging far behind other New Yorkers when it comes to colon cancer screening, recent findings show. So the Department of Health, the Health and Hospitals Corporation, Russian-American community leaders announced a new partnership this morning to raise awareness within the Russian-speaking community.

Get the facts – including statistics and an understanding of why regular colon cancer screenings are important – from the press release below.

Protect yourself. Get the facts.

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