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Health Team

Former US surgeon general: Health care is global concern

Posted January 24, 2013 5:39 p.m. EST
Updated January 28, 2013 12:03 p.m. EST

— When Dr. David Satcher was surgeon general of the United States, he preached awareness of health issues in the United States. Now, 11 years later, he's got a bigger picture in mind.

"I want to connect the goal of eliminating disparities in health in the U.S. in what is now the goal of global health equity," Satcher said.

He was in the Triangle Thursday speaking at the Global Health Lecture and Research Seminar at Duke University.

Satcher said access to health care across the globe is a key component to preventing disease.

"I started out in a situation where we didn't have access to health care," he said. "When I was born, children often died at home of diseases that could be treated. I almost died at the age of 2 of whooping cough and pneumonia, and I lost two siblings. I learned very early the difference it makes when you don't have access to health care."

Early detection is an important strategy to treating disease, but even more effective is preventing disease in the first place with immunization and lifestyle changes.

"We should want everybody to have access to quality health care," Satcher said. "But also to understand how to prevent disease."

He said the most underutilized health intervention in the nation is a healthy lifestyle, including:

  • moderate physical activity 5 days a week for 30 minutes a day;
  • eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day;
  • avoiding toxins such as alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs;
  • responsible sexual behavior and
  • daily stress-reducing activities.