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Putnam County Ranks Second in NYS for Health Outcomes

Brewster, NY—The 2015 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, presented by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, were released to the
public this morning. For the sixth consecutive year, Putnam County ranks among the top five counties in the state, with advancement up to second place, from fourth last year, out of 62 counties. These rankings provide a snapshot of a community’s health and a starting point for investigating and discussing ways to improve health.

“Again I am so proud of our Putnam County residents and the healthy choices they make,” said County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “We are ranked among the highest counties in the entire state
because of our residents, and the work our Health Department does to make our community a healthier place to live, work and play.”

“Helping Putnam residents improve their health and increasing access to resources that support their efforts is our number-one goal,” said Allen Beals, M.D., Commissioner of Health. “We do this
through education, prevention and enforcement.” The rankings are based on a model of population health that emphasizes many factors that can positively impact health if improved.

The Putnam County Department of Health continues to partner with more than 80 community partners to implement the county’s Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) for 2013-2017. In 2014 the Health Department continued its chronic disease prevention efforts with Eat Smart Restaurant Week, the Run 4 Your Life event, worksite wellness and school gardening programs.

For more information on the 2015 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, visit

The Health Department’s mission is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our website at; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY.


Putnam County DOH Hosts 9th Annual Food Operator’s Seminar; Second Annual Eat Smart Restaurant Week Campaign Kicks Off

Brewster, NY—More than 150 food establishments were represented at this year’s Food Operator’s Seminar, conducted by the Putnam County Department of Health (PCDOH). The ninth annual event, held on Tuesday, March 3 and repeated on Monday, March 9, brought together owners, chefs and caterers of Putnam County’s restaurants, delicatessens, food shops and institutional food services, to learn about hot topics and trends in the food industry. Subjects included Putnam’s farming initiative, second annual Eat Smart Restaurant Week, and emergency preparedness for restaurants. For the first time, break-out sessions further offered a choice of topics: restaurants and social media, special dietary options such as vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and other food allergy-related requests, or ultraviolet water disinfection systems.

Putnam County Executive, MaryEllen Odell welcomed the crowd, applauding the food and beverage representatives for their role driving the Putnam economy. Ms. Odell spoke of her longtime involvement in the industry, and her own previous work experience in the “F and B” sector. As County Executive, she has focused on business and economic development, and has been a strong supporter of Eat Smart Restaurant Week.

Allen Beals, M.D., Commissioner of Health, and Kristine Boyle, a nutritionist and health educator at the health department, each reported on last year’s successful launch of Eat Smart Restaurant Week.

“Restaurant support was very enthusiastic,” said Dr. Beals. “We had 35 establishments participating and great input from chefs and other partners of Putnam’s top restaurants. No doubt about it—we showed that a delicious meal can also be healthful. That was the ultimate point.”

Ms. Boyle described survey results from customers, noting that “More than 95 percent reported they would be participating in 2015 Eat Smart Restaurant Week.” This year’s event will run from September 27 to October 11. Restaurants interested in more information should contact Kris Boyle or public health sanitarian Shawn Rogan, coordinator of the Food Operator’s Seminar, at the PCDOH at 845-808-1390.

The seminar also provides an opportunity for the health department to acknowledge outstanding service by food establishments. Award winners included Patrick and Carol Cutillo of Cutillo’s, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award for 53 years of operational excellence. Six Commissioner’s Gold Awards for operational excellence, the department’s highest and most stringent honor, were distributed to The Arch, the Brewster Central School District’s JFK Elementary School and Brewster High School, Rocco’s Pizza, Watchtower and the William Koehler Center. Commendation Awards for distinguished performance went to Gino’s Trattoria & Pizzeria and Redendo’s, and Food Safety Partnership Awards were presented to Eveready Diner, Ledley Catering and Scoops-N-More.

The Health Department’s mission is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our website at; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at  and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY.

Photo Caption:

Health Commissioner Allen Beals, center, with award-winning chefs and food managers, from left: Patrick Lekaj, Rocco’s Pizza; Owen Patterson, Watchtower; Marco Barbaro, Gina’s Trattoria & Pizzeria; Albeiro Jimenez, The Arch; Health Commissioner Allen Beals, Brian Ledley, Ledley Catering, and from the William Koehler Center, Kathleen Fetky, Pat Sheehy and Mary Klepack. Other winners not pictured include those from Eveready Diner, Redendo’s and Scoops-N-More.


Article by Health Commissioner Allen Beals on Eat Smart Restaurant Week receives statewide attention in the NYSAC News Magazine

Eat Smart Restaurant Week Putnam County Program Promotes Health, Supports Local Businesses

Posted on February 9, 2015 by NYSAC

By Allen Beals, MD, JD, The Commissioner of Health in Putnam County

Good nutrition is important for a long and healthy life, and local economies benefit from a strong restaurant sector. The intersection of these realities, coupled with the fact that chronic disease and obesity prevention tops the NYS Department of Health’s Prevention Agenda 2013-2017, led the Putnam County Department of Health to plan and implement a two-week restaurant event, entitled Eat Smart Restaurant Week (ESRW). The phrase “eat smart” was selected over “eat healthy,” based on the fact that the notion of “healthy” eating may be a turn-off for many, conjuring up images of a plate of steamed broccoli. The initiative was designed to spotlight the concept that “healthy and delicious can go hand in hand,” and to attract customers who were interested in both tasty offerings and good health.

Many factors contribute to the epidemic of obesity and the associated illnesses of diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Among the risk factors identified by public health researchers is a trend for Americans to consume more “away-from-home foods” than ever before. These foods often have more calories, salt and fats than home cooked meals, and are served in bigger portions as well.

Putnam County Department of Health (PCDOH) food sanitarians have worked closely with its food operators on food safety issues for decades. In fact, ensuring food safety is a fundamental health department activity. In recent years, the PCDOH’s sanitarians have expanded their role beyond informing and educating around regulations and compliance issues. The department began hosting an annual Food Operators Seminar in 2007 to provide a forum to educate about new trends in the food industry. Although the one-day program is not mandated, the event has been well attended each of the eight years it has been held. Typically nearly 40 percent of the county’s 377 food establishments attend. In addition to disseminating information and education, the gathering has been used to “read the pulse” of restaurateurs and other food preparers, to assess what training needs may be going unmet and to identify new areas of potential collaboration.

National Restaurant News, the leading trade publication for the food service industry, has reported that customers say they will eat out less frequently due to concerns about their health. Putnam food operators were aware of this market forecast and additionally felt that they might be missing out on a growing market of more health conscious diners. The ESRW concept was conceived to address this trend and had its early launch to the local industry at the March 2014 seminar. A panel discussion was held with local Putnam farmers, chefs, restaurateurs, the Health Commissioner and a manager from the Putnam County Planning Department. In addition, presentations were made by a PCDOH food sanitarian and a nutritionist, all of which served as a springboard to move the project forward and gain support from food operators.

Since there was no registration fee for participating restaurants, this new event could not only highlight more Putnam restaurants, but also could include a broader variety of food establishments, important given the fact that “away-from-home-foods” are not solely limited to dine-in restaurants. By the time ESRW kicked off in September 2014 for its two-week stretch, 35 Putnam eateries were on board. Restaurants, deli or counterstyle establishments, one “fast-food” chain and a few cafeteria-style operations all were eager to work closely with health department nutritionists. Together they finely tuned selected menu items to ensure they were both delicious and healthy.

Participants were allowed to submit between two to five recipes and a pre-established four-point criteria system was used to assess the selections. Health department nutritionists formulated the guidelines based on evidence-based practice and analyzed the recipe submissionsall at no cost to the restaurant operators. The four principles included moderate portion sizes for meat, poultry, fish, cheese, pastas and grains; an emphasis on fresh, local vegetables; healthy oils, also in moderation, and finally, salt and high sodium ingredients used sparingly. Our nutritionists, working with the chefs, tweaked each recipe until it was acceptable under our healthy choice criteria.

ESRW kicked-off with a press event, unveiling a specially designed ESRW event logo at one of the early participating restaurants. Further news releases included announcements when new restaurant menus selections were approved and “photo ops” when “participating restaurant” signage was put on display at individual locales. Marketing included media releases, social media posts, online publication and calendar listings utilized by the PCDOH; advertising dollar support from the Putnam County Tourism Office, as well as full endorsements from Putnam’s Economic Development Corporation and the Office of the County Executive. Pre-event publicity also included a 30-minute television production which aired opening week on “Good Day Hudson Valley,” featuring three owner chefs and health department staff.

Plans are already underway for the 2015 ESRW, scheduled for September 27 through October 11. Customer satisfaction survey results from the inaugural event have been collected and are being analyzed. Food operators and other stakeholders are being formally and informally solicited for their opinions, with ongoing face-to-face feedback, and a planned survey and focus groups at next year’s seminar. This input will be used to improve next year’s event.

By developing and strengthening these business and community partnerships, employing social marketing and a comprehensive promotional campaign, the Putnam County Department of Health has reimagined what public health can do to educate and inspire the public to make more informed and healthier choices in their diet.



PCDOH Launches Opioid Overdose Prevention Program

Brewster, NY— Heroin overdose deaths have risen more than 120 percent in Putnam County over recent years. Thirty-three fatalities occurred in the two-year period of 2012 and 2013, up from 15 in 2010 and 2011. These grim statistics are behind the recent launch of a NYS-approved opioid overdose prevention program by the Putnam County Department of Health (PCDOH). The department joins dozens of other counties in the state adopting this public health intervention that makes use of the antidote drug naloxone, essentially reversing the overdose.

“This epidemic has made a heartbreaking mark on families, friends and our local communities,” says Commissioner of Health Allen Beals, MD, “and we’re responding to County Executive MaryEllen Odell’s call for action in the war on addiction.” The County Executive made this a prime focus in her recent 2015 Putnam County Budget Address, introducing a campaign of education and awareness to combat the problem and challenging all agencies, public and private, to collaborate and address the issue.

Naloxone, which goes under the trade name Narcan®, blocks opioids in the nervous system for 30 to 90 minutes, and provides enough time for transport to an emergency room. The drug will be administered intranasally, (although it is also available as an injectable drug). The PCDOH is providing the medication free of charge to law enforcement and other first responders once they complete the proper training.

“Of course, this is not a solution to the problem, but it will save lives,” Dr. Beals continues.

Putnam County does not face this drug crisis alone. Drug overdose is a significant issue in the state and in fact the country, prompting NYSDOH legislation that makes it legal for nonmedical personnel to administer this prescription medicine to someone to keep an overdose from becoming fatal. The drug has been successfully prescribed and distributed to not only law enforcement, but also directly to heroin users, their families and friends in 15 states and Washington DC. The Harm Reduction Coalition reports that by the end of 2010 over 50,000 kits had been distributed nationwide and over 10,000 overdoses had been reversed, saving that many lives.

Further information on the opioid overdose prevention program is available at: and search “opioid overdose prevention.”

The Health Department’s mission is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit the PCDOH website at or visit the social media sites on Facebook at and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY.


Questions about Ebola?

New York State has launched a new State information line to answer questions from New Yorkers about Ebola. The free info line is 1-800-861-2280. Trained staff will answer 24/7. The line is for public health information purposes only, not for those in need of medical attention.


Screening Tests for Lead Help Protect Children: International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week celebrated October 19-25

Brewster, NY—Children exposed to the environmental toxin lead face serious health risks with lifelong impact. Most child poisoning cases result from ingesting chips or inhaling dust from lead-based paint common in old homes built before 1978. In Putnam County approximately 30% of homes fall into this category. Preventing this exposure, and early identification and intervention are all crucial efforts. As a result public health law requires blood lead level (BLL) screening for children at age one and then again at two. International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, celebrated annually each October, helps raise awareness of this serious issue and the appropriate precautions that should be taken.

“Lead poisoning has very serious neurological consequences for young children and these cases are completely preventable,” explains Allen Beals, MD, Commissioner of Health for Putnam County. “Their developing brains are particularly vulnerable and exposure can affect children’s behavior and ability to learn, as well as their growth. The first step is to make sure your child has his or her blood lead levels checked at age one, and again at two. Speak to your healthcare provider or the PCDOH. Armed with the knowledge that testing is mandated by law, parents are in a good position to ensure this is done. We can assist in getting these screenings, or provide a quick test in our office by appointment.”

Young children learning to crawl spend a lot of time on the floor and put things in their mouth. Frequent washing of hands, face, toys, bottles and pacifiers is very important. A foundation of good nutrition and eating foods high in calcium, iron and vitamin C in particular, can limit the impact if lead is ingested or inhaled.

“Lead can also harm babies before they are even born, if the pregnant mother is exposed,” continues Dr. Beals, who had a private practice as an obstetrician/gynecologist for more than 20 years before taking up public service.

Lead dust is often invisible and generated during remodeling or renovation, when old paint is scraped or sanded, but can be present at other times as well, settling on windowsills, floors and toys. Even if surfaces appear in good condition, the opening and closing of doors and windows covered with a lead-based paint will generate lead dust. Most children with lead poisoning do not look or feel sick until much later in the course of the illness. Nonetheless, damage may be occurring. The only way to know is to have your child’s BLL tested.

Lead exposure can occur in other ways as well, and reducing exposure should be routine and a priority for everyone. Tips include:

 Assume any home built before 1978 contains lead paint. Keep all painted surfaces in good condition. Renters living in homes built before 1978 should ask landlords to safely repair any peeling paint. If the landlord is not responsive, local building inspectors or town clerks may be able to assist.

 Take the proper precautions before repairing peeling paint or performing home renovations. Pregnant women, babies and children should avoid all peeling and chipped paint. Call the Health Department for information on how to paint and repair safely. Safe work practices for renovations are key to preventing contamination in a home. Hiring a certified contractor ensures that proper safety measures are followed.

 Avoid cooking, storing or serving food in leaded glass, crystal and pewter and painted china or pottery from Asia, Latin America or the Middle East.

 Individuals with jobs or hobbies with lead exposure, such as carpentry or hunting, should shower and change clothes and shoes before going home. Potentially contaminated clothes should be washed alone.

A list of children’s products that contain lead is available on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website at or by calling 800-638-2772. For more information on how to prevent childhood lead poisoning, call the Putnam County Department of Health at 845- 808-1390 or visit the New York State Department of Health web site at:

The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health is to improve and protect the health of our community. Core services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our website at; or visit our social media sites on Facebook at and Twitter @PutnamHealthNY. ###


Emerging Infections: Enterovirus D68 and Ebola

The Health Department strives daily to ensure the health and safety of Putnam County residents. Trained staff members monitor the health status of the community in order to identify emerging infections and work with community partners to reduce transmission of disease. Partners include the healthcare providers, hospitals, schools, laboratories, and the EMS community.

Enterovirus D68