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NACCHO Annual 2015: Surgeon General & CDC Director Emphasize Need for Preventive Care


Wednesday, July 8, 2015


KANSAS CITY, MO – U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden told local health department officials from around the nation that they can help millions of Americans live healthier and longer lives by refocusing the American healthcare system on preventing illnesses and injuries – not just treating them.

The two physicians and Director of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli were among the national, state and local officials who spoke to about 1,300 public health professionals attending the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) Annual Conference, which is being held in Kansas City this week.

Murthy appeared at the conference and Frieden spoke via a live video feed on Tuesday, and Botticelli attended the conference Wednesday. Following his remarks, Murthy engaged in an extended dialogue with NACCHO members facilitated by NACCHO Executive Director LaMar Hasbrouck, MD, MPH.

The NACCHO conference is the largest gathering of local health officials in the United States. NACCHO is the only national organization that holds meetings to address needs specific to local health departments.  

"The public health could not and would not improve without your leadership," Murthy said, joining Frieden and Botticelli in thanking local health department staff members for their work. 

"As a country we invest far more in treatment than prevention, and our failure to invest in prevention is literally killing us,” Murthy said. He called for “an America based on a culture of prevention.”

Giving an example of the value of prevention efforts, Frieden said that “improved cardiovascular care could save 100.000 lives a year in the U.S.” Increasing immunizations and colonoscopies, improving treatment for people with diabetes, and reducing the number of motor vehicle accidents could also save lives and save money, because preventing illnesses and injuries costs less than treating them, Frieden said.

Both federal health officials emphasized the importance of programs to reduce tobacco use, and Murthy called for the same restrictions on e-cigarettes that are imposed on regular cigarettes, saying the electronic cigarettes can lead to tobacco use.

Murthy, Frieden and Botticelli all called for greater efforts by the medical community and government to reduce prescription opioid abuse. Frieden said there has been more than a four-fold increase in deaths from such abuse in the past decade, with overdoses claiming more than 145,000 lives during the period.

"Drug use can be prevented using evidence-based programs,” Botticelli said. "Substance use disorders are not a moral failure, but a medical condition."

Medical treatment “not only helps people recover from their substance use disorders, it helps prevent overdose deaths,” Botticelli added. 

In addition to cutting the smoking rate and the abuse of prescription opiates, Murthy said that to prevent illnesses and injuries he supports programs to:

  • Encourage more physical activity, particularly walking.
  • Improve nutrition. “I will seek to call attention to added sugar” in food and beverages.
  • Reduce the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health problems.
  • Reduce violence, particularly violence against women and racially motivated violence.