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Richard Daines
Richard Daines

Former health commissioner dies

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The state's former health commissioner, Dr. Richard Daines, died suddenly over the weekend. The probable cause of death was a heart attack. Daines was the public figure in former Governor Paterson's effort to pass a tax on sugary drinks. Karen Dewitt reports.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

Dr. Daines, who was chosen to be former Governor Eliot Spitzer's Health Commissioner, and who stayed through the Paterson Administration, died suddenly at his weekend home in the Hudson Valley over the weekend, a State Health Department spokeswoman says.

Daines, a former Mormon missionary and hospital executive, spearheaded the state's preparations for the swine flu epidemic.

Dr. Daines was also a crusader in the fight against childhood obesity. He even made a video in his kitchen, posted on You Tube, where he advocated for a sugar tax to discourage the consumption of soda pop. In the video, he poured a pitcher of sugar and held up a giant globule of fat that he said was the result of excess consumption of sugared soft drinks.

Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed a new health commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah, who is against the imposition of a soda tax.

In a statement, Cuomo said the former commissioner's passing was a "tremendous loss". Cuomo said Daines "worked tirelessly to improve the health of all New Yorkers, and his knowledge and deep faith has left a lasting impression on all those who worked with him".

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