As the 18th U.S. Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin keeps her vision and message strong: One step at a time, always with an eye on the ball of making – and keeping – the United States a more fit and healthier nation.
Two years after being appointed to the post by President Barack Obama, Benjamin, who spoke March 19, 2011, at the IHRSA conference in San Francisco, continues to campaign for her “Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation” platform, which she unveiled in early 2010. It was debuted in conjunction with First Lady Michelle Obama and her crusade to end obesity. Click here to see a July 26, 2010, SNEWS story about a new Physical Activity Coalition that was founded in part by the federal initiatives.
“Together we can do so much more than we can do alone,” Benjamin told the audience at the IHRSA show. “Prevention is the focus of being surgeon general.”
For Benjamin, who ran her first half-marathon since being in office and has also hiked the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim, being fit is not just about how you look. In her fact sheet about the report, she states:
“To stop the obesity epidemic in this country, we must remember that Americans will be more likely to change their behavior if they have a meaningful reward-- something more than just reaching a certain weight or dress size.
“The real reward has to be something that people can feel and enjoy and celebrate. That reward is invigorating, energizing, joyous health. It is a level of health that allows people to embrace each day and live their lives to the fullest – without disease, disability, or lost productivity.”
Benjamin, who as U.S. Surgeon General is known as “America’s Doctor,” has a biography that would fill a book. She is founder and former CEO of the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in Alabama, former associate dean for Rural Health at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine in Mobile, and past chair of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States. In 1995, she was the first physician under age 40 and the first African-American woman to be elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees.
“My vision is an attempt to change the conversation from a negative one about obesity, to a positive one about being fit and healthy,” she said at IHRSA.
“The whole idea is, if I can do it, if my body can do it, it really is one step at a time” and anybody can do it, she added.
“We have to have fun,” she said. “We have to get movement back in our lives.”
She also called on the fitness industry to continue its work.
“I believe the fitness industry is poised to step up,” she said. “I hope you find the time to make a difference and help us become a healthy and fit nation.”
To download a PDF of her 21-page report, click here to find the link.