Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is putting health on the agenda.
It’s not unheard of for a politician to promote healthier lifestyles for their constituents, but perhaps no city leader does this with quite as much passion and urgency as Eric Adams, the Borough President of Brooklyn, NY. That’s for a good reason: Adams experienced first-hand what happens when you neglect your health.
“In 2016, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and I’ve had all the symptoms associated with advanced diabetes,” says Adams. Upon diagnosis, he had severe vision problems and nerve damage in his hands and feet—common complications of untreated type 2 diabetes.
The thought of losing his eyesight or being attached to different medications for the rest of his life was a wake-up call, and he decided to do something about it: “After changing my diet to a whole-food, plant-based diet, it was a complete reversal of those conditions,” says Adams.
Adams hopes to energize the community about healthy eating, empower them to make changes to their own diet and habits, and evaluate the structures in place that encourage or discourage healthy choices.
Take food deserts, for example. A neighborhood with more bodegas than supermarkets is one way to measure a community’s access to healthy foods. (Bodegas are small convenience stores that mostly carry packaged snacks, boxed and frozen foods, and sugar-sweetened beverages—but rarely fresh fruit or vegetables.)
One Brooklyn neighborhood—Bedford Stuyvesant, or “Bed Stuy”—has one supermarket for every 57 bodegas, the worst ratio in the entire city. Rates of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension in Bed Stuy are all above the city-wide average.
These health conditions are not unique to Brooklyn, but Adams has initiated a number of steps to make health a focus in Brooklyn, which could potentially make the borough a role model for other cities.
First of all, Adams focuses on educating kids about food. “We are really putting a lot of capital into urban farming and showing people how we can use our rooftops and the empty lots to grow food, and to see that a vegetable is not just ketchup,” says Adams. (It sounds crazy, but school lunches have historically counted ketchup as a vegetable.)
Another strategy is assessing the medical institutions in the borough. “We’re starting a pilot project where people are going to be able to use a whole-food, plant-based diet to deal with their chronic disease,” says Adams. “We can show that those diseases can be reversed, and get a better outcome.”
Adams also hosts various events at the Brooklyn Borough Hall to educate citizens on different health topics. Past events have included yoga classes, cooking demonstrations, and nutrition lessons, such as the importance of cooking with less salt.
“We’re in a good place by being in Brooklyn to really advocate and raise the conversation on healthy eating, particularly the whole-food, plant-based eating,” says Adams. “We’re going to do all that we can to make sure that it happens.”
00:00:02,892 --> 00:00:07,462
We're in a good place by being in
Brooklyn to really advocate and raise
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the conversation on healthy eating, in
particular whole-food plant-based eating.
00:00:12,816 --> 00:00:19,998
00:00:19,998 --> 00:00:24,265
2016, I was diagnosed
with type 2 diabetes.
00:00:24,265 --> 00:00:28,395
And I've had all the symptoms
associated with advanced diabetes,
00:00:28,395 --> 00:00:32,536
including eye loss and permanent
nerve damage in my hands and feet.
00:00:32,536 --> 00:00:37,759
After changing my diet to a whole-food
plant-based diet, it was a complete
00:00:37,759 --> 00:00:42,655
reverse of those conditions and
now I'm living a healthy lifestyle and
00:00:42,655 --> 00:00:46,991
I'm able to see you because I saw
the need of eating correctly.
00:00:46,991 --> 00:00:48,613
Food is addictive.
00:00:48,613 --> 00:00:53,373
We use food to self-medicate
ourselves when we're in pain.
00:00:53,373 --> 00:00:58,366
We use food to help us during
our most stressful moments.
00:00:58,366 --> 00:01:03,177
The healthy food issue is a global
problem, global diabetes,
00:01:03,177 --> 00:01:06,822
global heart disease, global hypertension.
00:01:06,822 --> 00:01:08,560
The number rates of cancer.
00:01:08,560 --> 00:01:10,375
None of these numbers are going down.
00:01:10,375 --> 00:01:15,241
We have learned to live in despair, and
I believe that we can change that and
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these are the things that we're
doing here in the borough.
00:01:19,043 --> 00:01:23,875
We are really putting a lot of
capital into urban farming and
00:01:23,875 --> 00:01:27,741
showing people how we
could use our rooftops and
00:01:27,741 --> 00:01:33,354
the empty lots to grow food and to see
that a vegetable is not just ketchup.
00:01:33,354 --> 00:01:37,612
Second, we're looking at how do we
treat our medical institutions.
00:01:37,612 --> 00:01:42,068
We're starting a pilot project
where people use a whole-food
00:01:42,068 --> 00:01:45,813
plant-based diet to deal
with their chronic disease.
00:01:45,813 --> 00:01:50,302
We're showing that the diseases can
be reversed and get a better outcome.
00:01:50,302 --> 00:01:54,107
This is an opportunity to
use my life as an example,
00:01:54,107 --> 00:01:58,803
as the borough president,
to share the information with others.
00:01:58,803 --> 00:02:02,586
And we're going to do all that we
can to make sure that it happens.
00:02:02,586 --> 00:02:07,400
Health. Brooklyn, NY: Office of the Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. (Accessed on November 7, 2021 at https://www.brooklyn-usa.org/health/.)New York City Community Health Profiles. New York, NY: City of New York. (Accessed on November 7, 2021 at https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/data/data-publications/profiles.page.)