Surgeon General Vivek Murthy Calls for ‘Prevention-based Society’

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy called for improving public health by creating a “prevention-based society” in an interview with the Washington Post.

In the prevention-based society Murthy envisions, all institutions — from providers to schools to faith-based organizations — examine how they affect public health and what they can do to improve it. This is already a top priority for providers, he said, but consumers must also understand their impact and influence as well.

Part of Murthy’s agenda is reaching out to some of these consumers and developing the specific roles they can play in a broader preventive agenda. For example, employers could make a huge difference by emphasizing wellness and physical activity in the workplace.

“That includes shifting meetings, whenever possible, to walking meetings. That involves encouraging folks to take the stairs whenever possible, and leading by example, from the very top of the organization down,” he said. “That involves doing what my hospital actually did before I left, which is having FitBit competitions and other walking competitions.”

Faith leaders also stand to make a huge difference, particularly regarding mental health, as they are uniquely positioned to lessen the stigma surrounding those issues that may hold people back from seeking help.

The role of the government, Murthy said, has less to do with compelling these sectors to make changes and more with providing education “as a convener and as a catalyst” to bring them together and help them understand their respective roles.

Murthy also addressed his office’s part to play in fighting multi-drug-resistant bacteria, such as educating patients about the appropriateness of antibiotic use, which can be a challenge for doctors who have limited time with patients. The issue, he said, ties into larger questions of creating a healthcare system where patients and doctors have time to develop the relationships needed to deliver and receive the best possible care.

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