U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, Calls for Renewed Commitment to Public Health

Dr. Vivek Murthy delivered an excellent opening address to Hospital Medicine 2016, the “Year of the Hospitalist.” He presented a key message that hospitalists can be major supporters of public health and disease prevention. He described the clean water crisis in Flint, Michigan as a tragedy that should not be occurring in the United States in the year 2016.

We need to renew our commitment to a strong foundation of public health. “Health is the key to opportunity,” Dr. Murthy stated. He reviewed four pillars for the foundation of good public health:

  1. Make healthy choices a desired choice. We should try to establish exercise and good eating as a part of a normal lifestyle, not something onerous or difficult. Healthy choices can be a source of pleasure.
  2. Change the environment to make healthy changes sustainable. The environment includes advertising and marketing of good choices, access to healthy foods, and access to increased activity. An example was local government commitments to increased walkable routes and parks will increase activity in a population.
  3. Focus on the mind and spirit, not just the body.
  4. Cultivate the ability to give and receive kindness.

Dr. Murthy left the hospitalist with three take-home questions:

  1. Can a hospitalist leverage leadership to create a culture of healing?
  2. Can a hospitalist be a force for change outside the hospital setting? Can you assist with nutrition wellness or safety projects outside of the hospital?
  3. Can we inspire the next generation of physicians to work on public health and preventing illness?

Key Takeaways

  1. Hospitalists can be major supporters of public health and disease prevention; and
  2. The foundation of good public health includes the changes to make healthy choices a desired choice, change the environment to make healthy changes sustainable, focus on the mind and spirit, and cultivate the ability to give and receive kindness.


  1. Ann Louise Tetreault says

    You can tell alot about a person by looking at their shoes; spending habits, person grooming, health, confidence, road most traveled etc.
    What differenciates a hospitalist? They see the results of poor health and safety choices, poverty, affluence, dependancy, judgement, health policies, economic and human missteps.
    They can be a great educational force and with data try to steer political influence in favor or a healthier outcome.

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