America has a new surgeon general.
After several months, the United States finally has a new “top doctor.” Vivek Murthy, M.D., M.B.A was sworn in to office April 22, 2015 at the age of 37. At age 37, Murthy is the nation’s youngest surgeon general and will fill the post previously led by former surgeon general, Regina Benjamin who stepped down in July of 2013.
What is the role of the surgeon general and how does it affect you?
The surgeon general holds the highest public health position in the federal government. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the surgeon general oversees all public health initiatives and programs for American citizens that involve the federal government’s money. The primary duties of this position include the following:
- Lead the more than 6,500 men and women of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps
- Chair the National Prevention Council
- Effectively communicate the best science around prevention and health to help improve the health of the American people. In Murthy’s case, communicating the best scientific information may also mean appearing with Sesame Street’s Elmo to promote vaccinations.
As surgeon general, what are Dr. Murthy’s priorities?
In his inauguration speech, Dr. Murthy outlined characteristics of the “Great American Community,” highlighting areas that he will prioritize as America’s doctor. Murthy reminded his audience that health does not just happen in a doctor’s office, but is impacted by factors in the social environment. “Public health doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s intrinsically linked to education, employment, the environment and our economy. There is a whole world beyond hospital corridors and clinic waiting rooms where people are struggling with issues of transportation, housing and development.” According to the surgeon general website, Dr. Murthy will employ 21st century approaches and technology to modernize the role of the surgeon general. He will focus his efforts on building partnerships within communities and across numerous sectors of society to address the epidemics of obesity and tobacco-related disease, to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, to improve vaccination rates and to make prevention and health promotion the backbone of a strong and healthy America.
Learn more about Dr. Murthy’s priority areas of tobacco free living, mental and emotional wellbeing, active living and healthy eating through the surgeon general website.
Visit the Michigan State University Extension website for information on health, nutrition and chronic disease management and prevention.