This week’s New Yorker profiles Christine Quinn, Speaker of the NYC City Council. I don’t know Ms. Quinn personally, so I was glad for the likely fact-checked bio of the woman who might be my next mayor.

NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn marching in a Gay Pride event on Staten Island, June 2008 (Wikimedia Commons)

It turns out that Quinn lost her mother to breast cancer when she was 16 years old. This interests me at several levels. Surely, the life-long effects of such a loss vary among souls – from bitterness to ambition to kindliness. I don’t know if the Speaker holds particular sympathies for BC causes, or gives to cancer-related agencies. I wonder if she’s a little more concerned about environmental toxins that might contribute to disease, or a touch more generous than the next NYC resident  in her attitude, generally, about people who are sick and need care. But this is conjecture, nothing more.

She’s 45 years old and dropped 25 pounds, reports Rebecca Mead in the New Yorker. It’s said she looks “svelte.” The doctor in me admires Quinn for the weight loss. Not easy, especially if you have a stressful job with long hours, little time to work out, power breakfasts, lunch meetings and work-related dinners with drinks served. I wonder if she lost the weight because she thinks looking good will help her win the race for mayor.

Being obese didn’t stop Chris Christie in his election as Governor of nearby New Jersey. I suspect, but can’t prove, that looks matter a lot more for a woman in a competitive career path.

What I wonder, too, is if she was motivated to lose the weight for reasons of health. Being slimmer reducer her risk for breast cancer, diabetes and more. The weight loss tells me at least one thing about Quinn, which is that she has will-power, a capacity for self-control.

I didn’t know until today that Quinn grew up in Glen Cove on Long Island. She attended a Catholic high school in Old Westbury. My home was nearby, and my public high school in Old Westbury. So we’re connected, like everyone, more or less.

The New Yorker reports one amazingly fortunate thing in Quinn’s past. Evidently her grandmother came over on the Titanic in steerage class. She was one of the few kids to get out alive from that compartment. As reported about her ancestor, “when the other girls dropped to their knees to pray she took a run for it.” Quinn’s existence is a product of luck, and drive and determination. One might say she’s the granddaughter of a survivor, whatever that means.

Moving on, to public health in NYC, the city where I thrive –

Since the Bloomberg administration targeted calories, trans-fats and more, the childhood obesity rate has declined. Here, public health initiatives are bold. Hard to prove cause and effect, and there’s controversy about the precision of the counts and Big Brother issues besides. But I admit from my own experience that seeing 480 calorie posts by Starbucks muffins helps steer me away where otherwise I might indulge.

Mayor Bloomberg has, in a way, made it easier for me to lose weight. I don’t mind the nudge at the food counter. Rather, I think it’s helpful. I can choose a second slice of pizza but I don’t often, not any more. Because I see the costs – healthwise, beyond the curious news of competitive pizza price-lowering in Manhattan.

We enjoy a higher-than-average life expectancy in NYC. Not everyone is as strong as Quinn in terms of will-power and education. Public health measures can influence disease and, consequently, the costs of care in any city or region. Time will tell who’ll be the next mayor, if she’ll continue making strides in the realm of public health.

Hoping to stay on track – to the gym, then other writing,


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