Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Prescription for Health

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Prescription for Health

Article excerpt

America's top doctor leads effort to focus nation on exercise and other strategies to promote health and wellness.

When President Barack Obama tapped Dr. Regina Benjamin, a rural Alabama family physician, to serve as U.S. Surgeon General, she likes to joke that her client base went overnight from several hundred to nearly 300 million.

Benjamin, an alumna ol historically Black Xavier University of Louisiana and Morehouse School oí Medicine, was busy tending to the needs of her diverse patient group for 23 years as head of the I.a Batre Rural Health Clinic. Now, she is iusi as busy in her new capacity helping the Obama administration devise and promote healthy living initiatives. As Surgeon General in the L1. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Benjamin has the official rank of vice admiral, overseeing the operational command of 6,500 uniformed health officers around the world.

As Benjamin approached the Nov. 3 anniversary ot her first year in office, she paused for an interview with Diverse to share her views on a range of issues.

"Prevention is my priority," says Benjamin. Her efforts range from stopping the spread of HIVMIDS, a topic she says that doesn't generate enough discussion in the African-American community, Io promoting breastfeeding.

"If babies are exclusively breast fed the first ,six months," Benjamin says, "they are less likely to become obese. Breastfeeding is lower in the African-American community." On other topics, she says:

Diverse: You have been telling audiences across the country that "exercise is the new medicine." What do you mea ? by that?

RB: lixercise is just as important as medicine. You can get as many benefits from exercise as you can many pills. It's one of the ideas we want doctors to prescribe.

Diverse: What does the new federal health care law offer minorities?

RB: A lot, for everybody, not just minorities. As of Sept. 23, new insurers must cover the cost ot medical screening for preventive services. Now, they can't charge a co-pay (which impedes screenings lor lower-income people). Kids can stay on a parent's insurance until ¿ige 26. Also, kids can't be denied insurance because ot a pre-existing condition. My big issue is preventive medicine because (people ol color) spend inore ot our cash income on health care. …

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