New Surgeon General Needs to Build a Culture of Health


By Derek Yach

This week’s long delayed confirmation of Dr. Vivek Murthy as the next surgeon general fills a void in our nation’s health leadership and creates an opportunity to refocus the often wayward efforts to help Americans live long, healthy lives.  Murthy is taking office at a critical time when public health leaders are working hard to build a “culture of health” in America. This effort involves a major societal shift and is a movement that Murthy should fully embrace.

Building a culture of health requires a complete rethinking of the way healthcare is delivered in the United States.  It is a change from reactive medicine (treat you when you are sick) to preventive health (keep you from getting sick).  When you live in a culture of health, exercise is incorporated into everyday activities, good nutritional choices are accessible to all, investments are made in disease prevention research, and companies integrate health into their way of doing business.  Vaccinations for children, support for the mentally ill, and cessation programs for smokers are readily available. The healthy choice becomes the easy choice.


We know the old, reactive approach to healthcare doesn’t work. It is time for our nation’s health leaders to unequivocally embrace prevention. By promoting a culture of health,  Murthy can help create a healthier America and positively impact millions of lives.

Yach is executive director of the Vitality Institute, a New York City based research organization that advocates for greater preventive health measures. He previously served as an executive director and cabinet director at the World Health Organization, the senior vice president of global health and agriculture policy at PepsiCo, and the head of global health at the Rockefeller Foundation.


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