Former City Health Commissioner Takes Public Health Activism to National Stage

THE CITY'S FORMER HEALTH COMMISSIONER, TOM FARLEY IS TAKING HIS PUBLIC HEALTH ACTIVISM TO A NATIONAL STAGE IN A NEW ROLE AS CEO OF THE PUBLIC GOOD PROJECTS. NY1'S ERIN BILLUPS FILED THE FOLLOWING REPORT.

Originally posted on NY1.com by Erin Billups.

Gone are the days of Dr. Tom Farley flanking Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the blue room. The former health commissioner has new, more trendy digs. He's surrounded by startups, like his own, in a shared office space in the East Village.

"This is very different for me. To work for a small startup organization where we can really shape it as we go is, in many ways, exciting," he says.

Farley is the new head of the Public Good Projects, a nonprofit organization that hopes to harness the power of mass media to change the country's culture around health. 

"We're doing terribly in health given the amount of money we spend in health care. So we need to fundamentally rethink how we address health in this country, and one way to do that is to change the way that we understand and think about health and feel about health," Farley says.

The Public Good Projects is funded, in part, by West Coast-based Dignity Health. It was founded by John Hoffman, a documentary filmmaker. Farley met him through the making of the HBO series "Weight of the Nation."

Farley says we should expect well-produced messaging. The organization will tap into the skills of its board members, which include a former PepsiCo executive and a former president of the Advertising Council.

"I think there's a personality to this campaign that's what I would call a classic rebel campaign. This is not a make-nice, necessarily, strategy," says Ruth Wooden, vice chair of the Public Good Projects Board. "We have to rebel a little bit from conditions that are really harmful to people."

They say you won't see boring public service announcements from them, watered down by government bureaucracy.

"I'm very proud of messaging we did here in New York City, but New York City was an outlier," Farley says. "Not many Health Departments have strong messaging like that."

One could see Farley's new role as an extension of the so-called Bloomberg-Era nanny state, but Farley brushes the mention aside.

"Messages in that mass media don't force anybody to do anything," he says. "What they do is, they change the national conversation, and we think we need to be participating in that conversation."

Their first campaign, called "A Healthy America,"  is set to launch later this year. They, unfortunately, wouldn't give us a sneak peek.