Adams commits to making New York City future of Women’s Health

Mayor Eric Adams Outlines Plans for a Women's Health Agenda.
Mayor Eric Adams Outlines Plans for a Women’s Health Agenda.
Office of the Mayor of The City of New York

New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday outlined his vision for a “New York City Women’s Health Agenda” aimed at dismantling decades of systemic inequity that have negatively impacted the health of women across the five boroughs.

Joined by several health care leaders of his administration, Adams acknowledged the long-standing, persistent problems that plague women’s health care in a live address, and shared plans and ideas to close the gaps caused by long-standing structural inequities, including lack of access to care, lack of inclusion and lack of innovation.

“For too long health and health care has been centered around men, but that changes today,” said Mayor Adams. “We have been standing on the sidelines of women’s health for too long, and I have personally seen firsthand how the health system is letting our women down.

“It is long overdue that we break taboos and make New York City a model for the future of women’s health care,” he added. “We are going to build a city that is here for all women and girls.”

“This agenda will help us, as a city, prioritize and address the health needs of women across the lifespan and elevate the voices of women at every step along the way,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “The work to implement this agenda has already begun and I look forward to continuing to be part of that effort and doing so alongside so many dedicated and accomplished women inside and outside of government.”

Adams said that, historically, women’s health has been rife with inequities in many areas ranging from disease prevention to maternity care to mental health and management.

For example, in New York City, he said the average maternal mortality rate among Black pregnant people is more than nine times the rate of white pregnant people.

“Sadly, many of these deaths of Black people were preventable,” he said.

Adams’ vision to create a model for the future of women’s health in New York City includes:

Relaunching the Sexual Education Task Force: Convened by the New York City Commission on Gender Equity, in partnership with the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Equity, the task force will educate the youngest New Yorkers and create a culture of sexual wellness and inclusivity.

Additionally, the task force will work to update and implement 11 recommendations in its 2018 report — including ensuring school staff have basic competencies around inclusivity and respect and that they can also link students to appropriate sexual health resources outside the school setting, as well as increasing broad community support of sexual health education through public awareness campaigns and information sessions.

The task force will also provide an annual report of its activities.

Immediately Committing to Tracking Rates of Different Diseases: Diseases tracked would include cancer, mental health conditions, heart disease, and, possibly, additional conditions, as well as life expectancy and other key indicators differentiated by age, race, and additional key factors.

The Adams administration will leverage findings to shape the work that city agencies carry out regarding women’s health.

The city will also report on these indicators in an effort to ensure the tracking of progress regarding the state of women’s health in New York City. Additionally, the administration will continue to champion research in this space.

Convening a Variety of Thought Leaders to Create a Robust and Comprehensive Women’s Health Agenda: Thought leaders will include experts from different subject matter areas, including research, public health, health care, business, technology, and more, and will come together for a summit during Women’s History Month in March.

Building on Previous Successes for the City’s Workforce: The city will assemble a committee of experts to build on its past successes already achieved for its workforce, including increasing access to both lactation rooms and paid sick leave for cancer screenings.

Work will include examining how to create more menopause-friendly workplaces and promoting access to health services by utilizing WorkWell — the workplace wellness programs specifically created for city employees — as well as other existing avenues.

The committee will also look into how the city can achieve or develop accreditations around becoming more health friendly towards women.

This effort will make New York City the first city in the nation to begin a framework that is focused on its employees. Recommendations made by this group of experts will additionally inform future work so New York City can become even friendlier to women’s health.

Expanding Access to Medication Abortion at New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Clinics: Starting on Wednesday, the Morrisania Sexual Health Clinic in the Bronx, DOHMH will begin to provide abortion pills to individuals.

Several additional neighborhood DOHMH clinics in Crown Heights (Brooklyn), Central Harlem (Manhattan), and Jamaica (Queens) are scheduled to begin dispensing this medication by the end of the year. New York City Health + Hospitals’ (H+H) 11 public hospitals citywide already offer medication abortion.

Launching a Provider Education Campaign on Maternal Health: The campaign will focus on supporting those with hypertension and diabetes and will entail direct outreach to providers in target neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan that experience health and other socioeconomic disparities. The 20-week campaign will launch in the summer of 2023.

Launching of a Family-Based Substance Use Disorder Program at H+H: The substance use disorder program will focus on providing support to those who are pregnant and/or parenting and struggling with addiction, while additionally providing their children with mental health support and other services.

The program will integrate family medicine, behavioral health, and addiction medicine across a continuum of care.

Concurrently, the program will also address primary care, as well as psychosocial and mental health needs of children. In doing so, this model will support the healthy, long-term development of children affected by parental substance abuse.

Committing to Exploring the Expansion of and Access to Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy: Pelvic floor dysfunction can be caused by pregnancy, a traumatic physical incident, age, menopause, or obesity and can lead to a host of problems, including pain and bowel issues. One in three women will experience a pelvic floor disorder in their lifetime.

All these initiatives build off programs and services launched during Mayor Adams’ first year in office, including: A first-of-its-kind Abortion Access Hub that confidentially refers callers from across the country to abortion care providers in New York City, as well as connections to additional financial support, transportation, and lodging; a citywide expansion of doula services, expansion of the midwifery initiative, and expansion of a maternal health services program; and signing a series of historic bills to promote education, increase transparency, and expand access to maternal health care for pregnant New Yorkers.

Adams said many women, both in New York City and across the globe, suffer from preventable health conditions and face distinct health challenges.

He said heart disease continues to be a leading cause of death for women, while breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer for women (after skin cancer) and the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women (after lung cancer).

An analysis by DOHMH shows that among women, rates of hypertension are highest among Black women in New York City (41.6 percent) and nationwide (39.9 percent), compared to Latina women (26 percent and 28 percent, respectively), white women (20.6 percent and 25.6 percent, respectively) and Asian women (13 percent and 21.9 percent, respectively).

These inequities stem from a range of causes, including medical training and quality of available services, as well as clinical research historically conducted with men and then having subsequent findings incorrectly applied to women.

“This week is a bitter anniversary as we mark what should have been 50 years of protection of reproductive rights through Roe v. Wade,” said DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “Rather than focus on what’s lost, we will put our energy toward making gains for women’s health and mobilizing every sector of our city to this cause. As a husband, father of a daughter, ally, and doctor, my hope is that our city will be a beacon for women’s health now and for generations to come. We don’t have another year to wait.”

“Medicine and public health mirror our society where sexism and racism are normalized and it hurts the health of our city and world,” said DOHMH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michelle Morse, deputy commissioner, Center for Health Equity and Community Wellness. “We cannot simply confront the faults of the past to correct these issues. We must forge ahead with reparative policies and actions. Today’s announcement is one small but important step in that journey.”

“I applaud the mayor for shining a spotlight on the need for sensitive, compassionate, and holistic health care for women,” said H+H Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Machelle Allen, MD. “As a woman of color, I am not only a provider of women’s health care, I am also a consumer. No matter our race, gender identity, religion, physical or cognitive ability, or body type we are not invisible, and we deserve health care that meets our needs.”

“At New York City Health + Hospitals women’s health is foundational to the services we provide every day, and today’s announcement expands the city’s commitment to address the health care needs of those who need it most,” said H+H Chief Women’s Health Officer Wendy Wilcox, MD. “We will work closely with the city Health Department and all our partners to address the very real barriers that women still face to getting the care they need. The health system proudly provides quality, culturally-responsive health care services to address the gender and racial health care gaps and disparities we know exist at every level.”

“I was inspired to do this work by an African-American pediatrician who showed me that medicine is, above all else, about compassion and really seeing and hearing patients,” said Dr. Leslie Hayes, deputy commissioner, DOHMH Division of Family and Child Health. “Frederick Green, my childhood doctor, made a career journey similar to mine: from private practice rooted in community service to working in government to advocate for children and more equitable care. I am proud to follow in his tradition and to join this administration’s efforts to make medicine and health care better for women, children, and families.”

“I am pleased to see Mayor Adams take these much-needed steps to dismantle the long-existing health disparities plaguing women throughout our city,” said New York State Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn.

“As a Black woman and survivor of maternal loss from a health care system that ignored my needs, I’m committed to ending the maternal mortality crisis alongside the Adams administration,” added Bichotte Hermelyn, the Haitian American chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party. “Through legislation, including my introduced ‘Mickie’s Law,’ we are ensuring every expectant mother gets the equitable health care treatment they deserve.”

“Confronting persistent health inequities faced by women in our city has been a policy priority for this women-majority council, and we are encouraged by the administration focusing its agencies to address them,” said New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams.

“Ensuring healthy communities requires the city making smart investments to expand health care access and services with an intentional focus on equity,” she added. “We remain prepared to work with Mayor Adams and his administration to tackle the systemic issues that have prevented women in our city from truly accessing the health and safety we deserve.”