Hear From the Former U.S. Surgeon General: The Importance of Prevention
News Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, one of the youngest appointed U.S. Surgeon Generals, shares the inspiration behind his career in medicine and what fuels his uncompromising commitment to a healthier nation.
Dr. Vivek H. Murthy was inspired to practice medicine at an early age by his father, who was also a doctor. “Early on, I learned that medicine is about more than making diagnoses and prescribing medicine,” he states. “It is about building relationships with people; relationships that are based on trust and mutual understanding.”
In 2014, Dr. Murthy was sworn in as the 19th United States Surgeon General — the first Indian American to be appointed to the coveted medical post. As “America's Doctor,” he was responsible for communicating the best available information to the public regarding ways to improve personal and public health.
Murthy also oversaw the operations of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, comprised of more than 6,700 health officers who serve in nearly 800 locations around the world. Their mission promotes, protects and advances the health of the country.
According to the CDC, America spends more on healthcare than any other nation, yet the average life expectancy is far below many other nations that spend less. Dr. Murthy believes that the key to achieving better healthcare lies in prevention.
“Early on, I learned that medicine is about more than making diagnoses and prescribing medicine.”
Prevention focuses on activities that encourage healthy living in an effort to limit the onset of chronic diseases. Prevention also includes early detection efforts, such as screening at-risk populations, as well as plans for management of existing conditions.
Dr. Murthy believes that building a foundation of prevention means physical activity, good nutrition and emotional well-being. “We have spent relatively little attention on emotional well-being, which is vital when it comes to improving health,” he urges. According to a study by Edelman Wellness 360, consumers prioritize emotional health over physical, yet 63 percent lack clarity on how to achieve emotional well-being, like relieving stress and increasing self-esteem.
Access for all
When he's not advocating for a prevention-based approach to wellness, he uses his influence to promote equity of access to healthcare for all people. Disparities in income, education, housing, race, gender and geography all affect the quality of care a citizen can access. “We are one of the richest countries in the world, but we have such a wide disparity in terms of access to care and healthcare outcomes,” Dr. Murthy explains.
Dr. Murthy believes that when it comes to a healthier future, everyone can do their part by adopting healthier behaviors. “If we can incorporate healthy living into our own lives,” he outlines, “we will not only be healthier ourselves, but we will set a good example for the other people in our lives.”