2014 News Releases

Department of Behavioral & Community Health

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April 8, 2014        Print version

Dutchess County Unveils Plan to become the Healthiest County in the State
Celebrates National Public Health Week with the signing of the Declaration of Wellness

The Dutchess County Department of Health celebrates National Public Health Week by introducing the county’s first ever comprehensive Community Health Improvement Plan.

“We are taking steps to improve not only our health today, but the health of future generations,” said Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro.  “The Declaration of Wellness expresses the importance of health and wellness as it impacts the quality of life and productivity of community residents, and the commitment of our community partners to implement wellness programs and contribute to improving our well-being.”

County Executive Molinaro and Dutchess County Health Commissioner Dr. Kari Reiber were joined by representatives from the health, business, education, and non-profit sectors as they signed the “Declaration of Wellness,” a public-private commitment to improve the health of Dutchess County residents.  New York State Health Commissioner, Nirav R. Shah MD, MPH, took part in the ceremony and also signed the Declaration to show his support for this county-wide initiative.

“I commend the Dutchess County community for raising awareness about the important role public health plays in protecting people's lives and well-being,” said Commissioner Shah. “By implementing the goals of the Prevention Agenda, Dutchess County is on the right track toward improving public health. We look forward to a continued partnership in making New York the healthiest state in the nation."

Dutchess County has embraced a community planning effort which brings together diverse interests to determine the most effective way to improve community health. The collaborative process resulting in the 2014 Community Health Improvement Plan began in early 2011. Four priorities were identified by community stakeholders:

  • Reduce Childhood and Adult Obesity;
  • Increase Access to Preventive Healthcare and Improve Management of Chronic Disease;
  • Reduce Tick and Insect-Related Diseases; and
  • Reduce Substance Abuse.

The goals, strategies and objectives for each priority area are aligned with national initiatives such as Healthy People 2020 and the New York State Prevention Agenda.

“It is an exciting time, and we want Dutchess County to be an even healthier place to live, work, and play,” said Dr. Reiber who noted that National Public Health Week highlights prevention as an important aspect of community health improvement. “Through the County’s Community Health Improvement Plan, community members have identified areas we need to address, so we can move forward and become the healthiest county in New York State.”  

“Our family of hospitals and healthcare providers will be active participants in the Community Health Improvement Plan, and we commend the County for its leadership on this life-saving initiative,” said Health Quest President and CEO Luke McGuinness. “We all share the same goal: an informed citizenry engaged in practices that promote health and well-being, and improve our quality of life.”

“As an institution with active bariatric and diabetes education programs we know first-hand the implications of improper nutrition and lack of exercise,” noted Arthur Nizza, President and CEO of Saint Francis, “As a regional care provider, Saint Francis Health Center is committed to lending its experience and expertise to promote community-based health and wellness initiatives.” 

“I am pleased to lend my name to this effort to improve the wellness of Dutchess County residents and employees of the Poughkeepsie Journal,” said Barry Rothfeld, president and publisher of the Poughkeepsie Journal. “Most of us have faced medical issues personally, within our families or among our co-workers, and the importance of taking steps to improve the well-being of our community cannot be overstated.”

Charles S. North, President and CEO of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce said, "The Chamber is proud to stand with the Dutchess County Department of Health and sign this Declaration of Wellness. A healthy workforce is essential to keeping our economy moving forward in the right direction. On behalf our members, Board of Directors and staff, we pledge to do whatever is in our power to support and improve the collective health of our residents.”

Pari Forood, Executive Director of the Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation stated, "Miles of Hope is thrilled to be a partner with the Dutchess County Department of Health in urging government, healthcare, businesses, schools and nonprofits to promote the adoption of healthy lifestyle choices and practices.  Lack of physical activity and being overweight are known risk factors for various types of cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight, consuming nutritious food, and exercising regularly can help reduce the risk of cancer."

Presentations prior to the signing of the “Declaration of Wellness” highlighted several programs currently producing results in the community:

  • The Hudson Valley Farm to Schools program in the Beacon School District in partnership with Common Ground Farm and Hudson Valley Seed. The program provides for Farmer in the Classroom visits, a school garden curriculum and a Chef in the Classroom cooking for all K-5 students.
  • The Marathon Project, a program of the Council on Alcohol, Prevention and Education (CAPE) is a distance running program that pairs adult mentors with at-risk youth in the Beacon and Newburgh communities. The Marathon Project aims to reduce risk behaviors that can lead to substance use/misuse and violence.
  • Vassar Brothers Medical Center for obtaining the CEO Cancer Gold Standard accreditation, which calls for organizations to evaluate their health benefits and workplace culture and concentrate actions in five key areas of health and wellness in the workplace.

The Department of Health expects to recruit partners, and will provide guidance and technical assistance to those organizations and community groups who wish to work on existing programs or implement innovative, evidence-based interventions.

The event was held at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center, Hyde Park, NY.

The Dutchess County Community Health Improvement Plan can be accessed at:

The Declaration of Wellness for Dutchess County and pledge forms may be found at Healthy Dutchess:





A. K. Vaidian, MD, MPH,Commissioner of Behavioral & Community Health A. K. Vaidian, MD, MPH
Commissioner of Behavioral & Community Health
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