NEW YORK – For seven years, Dr. Thomas Frieden has been the nagging conscience of the nation’s biggest city, the man who made sure New Yorkers couldn’t smoke in bars or eat french fries cooked in artery-clogging trans fats.
Now, the city’s health commissioner will be taking his crusade against unhealthy living national as the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
President Barack Obama announced Friday that he has picked 48-year-old Frieden to lead the public health agency, where he will be faced with immediate decisions on how to deal with the swine flu outbreak, including whether to produce a vaccine. Frieden also may play a role in health care reform.
New York’s health commissioner is not usually a household name, but New Yorkers quickly got to know Frieden after his appointment in 2002, when he began a series of not-so-gentle campaigns to get the city to live healthier.
In 2003 he pushed through a ban on smoking in almost all workplaces, a rule that instantly transformed nightlife in the big city.
Frieden followed that up with a pair of new rules aimed at obesity.
One banned restaurants from cooking with artificial trans fats, substitutes for natural fats such as lard.
The city also began requiring thousands of chain restaurants to post the calorie content of their foods on the menu.