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United States Department of Health and Human Services
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Office of the Surgeon General

Public Health Priorities

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Disease Prevention

Overview

What are the priorities?

  • Overweight and Obesity
  • Increasing Physical Activity
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Tobacco Use
  • Preventing Birth Defects
  • Preventing Injury

Why are these priorities?

  • Seven of 10 Americans who die each year die of a preventable chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes and many forms of cancer.
  • Tobacco-related illnesses are the leading cause of death and kill 435,000 people each year.
  • Obesity-related illness is catching up quickly, killing 400,000 Americans each year.

How can we solve/address these priorities?

  • Eat healthy foods
  • Be physically active
  • Don't smoke
  • Limit alcohol and avoid drugs

How is the Office of the Surgeon General/HHS helping?

  • Through HHS initiatives such as Steps to a HealthierUS, Healthy Lifestyles & Disease Prevention, and the Small Steps Campaign, we are encouraging American families to take small, manageable steps within their current lifestyle — versus drastic changes — to ensure long-term health.

Overweight and Obesity

Increasing Physical Activity

HIV/AIDS

Tobacco Use

Preventing Birth Defects

Preventing Injury

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Eliminating Health Disparities

Overview

What is the priority?

  • Eliminating the greater burden of death and disease from breast cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other illnesses in minority communities.

Why is this a priority?

  • All Americans — regardless of their race, heritage or gender — should have access to good health information, health insurance and health services.

How can we solve/address this priority?

  • We must work to increase access to health insurance and health services for the traditionally underserved.
  • We must continue to conduct research into the reasons for health disparities and develop appropriate policies and outreach activities to close the gap.

How is the Office of the Surgeon General/HHS helping?

  • We are expanding programs like Community Health Centers and the State Children's Insurance Program (S-CHIP).
  • We are conducting additional research into the problem of health disparities through our research institutes such as the National Center on Minority Health (link) and the National Cancer Institute.
  • We are increasing public awareness and outreach through programs like Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day and The Heart Truth Campaign.

Speeches

Testimony

Resources

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Improving Health Literacy

Overview

What is the priority?

  • Improve the health literacy of all Americans. Health literacy is the ability of an individual to access, understand, and use health-related information and services to make appropriate health decisions.

Why is this a priority?

  • More than 90 million Americans cannot adequately understand basic health information.
  • People of all ages, races, and income and education levels are affected.

How can we solve/address this priority?

  • Increase awareness within the medical community and among the general public about the importance of health literacy and the challenges presented by low health literacy.

How is the Office of the Surgeon General/HHS helping?

  • Building a robust health information system that provides equitable access.
  • Developing audience-appropriate information and support services for all segments of the population, especially under-served persons.
  • Training health professionals in the science of communication and the use of communication technologies.
  • Ensuring that Surgeon General communications are written in plain language that people can understand.

Speeches

Resources

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Public Health Preparedness

Overview

What are the priorities?

  • Terrorism
  • Emerging Infections
  • Natural Disasters
  • Mental Health and Resilience

Why are these priorities?

  • Americans count on a strong public health system capable of meeting any emergency, whether it is an act of terrorism, an emerging infectious illness, or a weather disaster such as a hurricane or tornado.

How can we solve/address these priorities?

  • Invest more resources in our public health system
  • Develop partnerships between law enforcement, public health, and education agencies at all levels of government.

How is the Surgeon General's Office/HHS helping?

  • Increased funding for bio-terrorism preparedness
  • Research on biology bioterror-related agents
  • Better food safety through import inspections
  • Better public health and hospital planning and coordination
  • Increased use of volunteers through the Medical Reserve Corps

Speeches

Resources

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Organ Donation

Speeches

Resources

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50 Schools in 50 States Initiative

Overview

What is the priority?

  • Encouraging children and adolescents to make healthy choices

Why is this a priority?

  • Underage drinking
  • Smoking
  • Illicit, prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse
  • Childhood and adolescent obesity
  • Unintentional injury

How is the Office of the Surgeon General/HHS helping?

  • Through the 50 Schools in 50 States Initiative, the Surgeon General will visit at least one school in each of the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico during his tenure to talk with students about the dangers of risky behaviors and the benefits of healthy choices.
  • List of schools visited
  • Invite the Surgeon General to your school

Press Releases

Speeches

Resources

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Surgeon General News

  • October 14, 2004
    By 2020, One In Two Americans Over Age 50 Will Be At Risk For Fractures From Osteoporosis Or Low Bone Mass
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  • May 27, 2004
    New Surgeon General's Report Expands List of Diseases Caused by Smoking
    full story


  • April 8, 2004
    New Evidence Report Illustrates Links Between Health Literacy and Health Care Use and Outcomes
    full story


  • March 16, 2004
    HHS Names Members to Task Force on Drug Importation
    full story


Features

Links to Related Websites

Last revised: July 1, 2004

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