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Publication date: 
March 24, 2014

Savvy business people know that you can’t make an important financial decision without data.

Michael Bloomberg built his media company by using data to make smart decisions and by selling data. Then, when he took on the role of New York City Mayor, Bloomberg turned to a different kind of data: disease burden evidence.

While Mayor of New York from 2002 to 2013, Bloomberg and his administration implemented more than 100 public health measures to combat an array of health challenges in the city. One of his main areas of focus was reducing tobacco use, which was the second-leading cause of avoidable death in the US in 2010. Starting in 2003, Bloomberg increased cigarette taxes and banned workplace smoking. His anti-tobacco campaign was multifaceted, making use of advertisements and educational promotion in addition to policy change.

Also, under Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene published a study of disease burden, which reported that ischemic heart disease and major depression were the leading causes of healthy years lost in the city.

“These data show that many New Yorkers are living with chronic, disabling conditions, which highlights the importance of prevention, early detection and treatment for these illnesses,” wrote New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley in 2011.

Using disease burden as a guide, Bloomberg’s efforts to improve health extend well beyond New York. He has donated millions of dollars of his own money and collaborated with larger organizations to stop tobacco use around the world, to reduce road injuries globally, and to curb obesity through policy change. In April 2013, Bloomberg Philanthropies noted that the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use had awarded $100 million in grants to combat tobacco in over 70 low- and middle-income countries.

When Bloomberg announced a grant to “promote freedom from smoking” in 2006, the leader of one of the institutions charged with implementing the grant, Dr. Anders Nordström from WHO, said: “Mr. Bloomberg’s generous donation injects valuable momentum into our shared effort to reduce the global burden of disease and death caused by tobacco.”