ALBANY - Dr. Richard Daines, the innovative New York health commissioner who left a lucrative private sector career to fight for public health issues including a battle against childhood obesity, has died.
He died unexpectedly Saturday two months after he stepped down from public office, said his spokeswoman, Claudia Hutton. He was 60.
Daines, a former Mormon missionary, led former Gov. David A. Paterson's effort to create a "fat tax" on soda that would fund programs to fight childhood obesity. The former Eagle Scout and Scout master waged his campaign in English and Spanish and included some of the first uses of YouTube by a state commissioner. He also managed the closing of hospitals and hospital wings in a program to reduce the cost of the Medicaid health care system for the poor.
The cause of death has not been confirmed. Daines, who had been taking down Christmas decorations, was found by State Police in his barn in Dutchess County. It appeared he was in overall good health but might have had a heart attack, Hutton said.
Before joining state government in 2007 under Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Daines was chief executive of St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he was saddened by the news. "Dr. Daines worked tirelessly to improve the health of all New Yorkers," Cuomo said.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Daines "really had the public's interest at heart, and had the intellect to really change this country." - AP