Bronx CAN Health Challenge – Changing Attitudes Now
In the Bronx and the 33rd Senate District, issues of health are a major concern for Gustavo Rivera. Last year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranked the Bronx as the unhealthiest county in the state. Gustavo Rivera, along with Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and community partners, launched the Bronx CAN (Changing Attitudes Now) Health Initiative. The goal of the initiative was to get Bronxites and residents of the 33rd Senate District thinking about their health and making changes to develop healthier habits.
As part of the initiative, Gustavo asked members of the community to set a health goal for the summer. Leading by example, he chose to lose 20 lbs. over the course of four months. Since then, Gustavo has lost 27 lbs. and has pledged to lose 10-15 more this summer as part of the second annual Bronx CAN Health Initiative. Hundreds of Bronxites participated in the challenge in 2011 and Gustavo is working this summer to make sure even more Bronxites join him as part of Bronx CAN.
In addition to holding monthly health fairs and health screenings as part of the Bronx CAN Health Initiative, Gustavo also engaged community health organizations and health care providers to come up with policy ideas for how to make the Bronx healthier. Some of the bills that were developed include making it mandatory for each school to have a certified physical education instructor and for restaurants that incentive kids’ meals with toys be held to certain nutritional standards to make sure our kids are developing healthier eating habits.
Combating Smoking and Tobacco Products in the Bronx
As a former smoker and someone who suffers from asthma, Gustavo is all too aware of the dangers of smoking. His personal experiences have made reducing tobacco usage and asthma rates in the Bronx a legislative priority. Senator Rivera introduced and passed legislation with Assembly Member Jeff Dinowitz to ban smoking within 100 feet of all school entrances and exits, in order to prevent second-hand smoke exposure right outside of schools. Gustavo has also spoken out about the dangers of tobacco use to Bronx youth and continues to work with community health organizations to raise awareness.
Fighting for Access to Affordable and Quality Healthcare
While changing habits is one important way for Bronxites to become healthier, Gustavo Rivera has also been working to address issues of access to quality healthcare. Gustavo has raised awareness about free screenings ranging from blood pressure screenings to mammograms because he understands the importance of preventative healthcare and going to the doctor before you get sick.
In Albany, Gustavo has been very vocal on the need for New York State to create a Health Exchange to help cover over one million uninsured New Yorkers. When Senate Republicans blocked the creation of a health insurance exchange in the legislature, Gustavo supported and advocated for Governor Cuomo to sign an executive order creating the New York Health Benefit Exchange that will bring health care costs down and cover over a million uninsured New Yorkers.
Gustavo has also introduced legislation that prohibits hospitals from segregating patients into different systems of health care based on their insurance status. This legislation seeks to address issues of health inequity that largely impact communities of color. Gustavo Rivera believes that all patients deserve to receive the same standard of care.