Students from four local high schools visited Hofstra on April 3 to listen to New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker in celebration of “Healthiest Nation 2030,” a movement advocating for the creation of a healthier America in one generation.
Representatives from the New York Department of Health sat beside students from Westbury, Roosevelt, Barry Tech and Cambria Heights high schools, filling the seats of the Student Center Theater as Zucker spoke about the dangers of substance abuse that face young New Yorkers every year. He addressed the steps he and his agency are taking to ensure a healthier state.
Throughout his speech, Zucker spoke of the power social media has to spread both positive and negative messages regarding health habits to a generation constantly submersed in technology. Audience members watched a series of public service announcements warning of the dangers of e-cigarettes that the Health Department estimates will collect over 7 million impressions by the end of the agency’s campaign.
“We’re so concerned about e-cigarettes because the industry is actually targeting those who are young – vaping rates are going up astronomically. The industry is telling you that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to cigarettes, but studies show that e-cigarettes are not hazard-free,” Zucker said.
The commissioner went on to explain that e-cigarettes contain the highly-addictive drug nicotine and ultra-fine particles found in aerosol emissions related to lung cancer.
Mandy Wagnac, a student at Westbury High School, expressed her hopes that prevention, treatment and recovery procedures would be improved by the nation’s health advocates.
“I really hope there will be less substance abuse – I see it everywhere, and it’s a huge problem here,” she said. “I hope that people get the point that it’s not something we should be doing …”
Jackson Padilla, a student at Barry Tech High School, anticipates a surge of proactivity in the future of health professions. “Personally, I think that at the rate that things are going, it can only improve since more students of the millennial generation are going out into the workforce to fill jobs that will continue to help people out,” he said.
Assistant Professor of Health Professions Dr. Anthony Santella organized the event, and emphasized the need for the country to focus more on the prevention of health-related conditions alongside medical care. He explained that the health science community’s greatest achievements in increasing life expectancy and quality of life have been because of public health and prevention.
“In order for us to be the healthiest nation by 2030, we need to rethink and redefine health,” Santella said. “From e-cigarettes to childhood obesity, regardless of where you live or where you go to school, we all need to be aware of the negative health consequences associated with our behaviors.”
At the end of his address, Zucker urged students to utilize social media as a way to keep informed about the newest advances the Department of Health is making toward the creation of a healthier generation.
Zucker said, “This is all about you – believe me, you are the future. You are tomorrow’s doctors, you are tomorrow’s engineers, you are the ones that are going to change the world for us and I’m going to be coming to you for help one day.”