Surgeon General of The United States
On July 13, 2009, President Barack Obama announced the choice of Benjamin for the position of Surgeon General of the United States and as a Medical Director in the regular corps of the Public Health Service. On October 7, 2009, Benjamin was unanimously approved by the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Benjamin was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate on October 29, 2009.
Benjamin accepted the President's nomination, and made clear her dissatisfaction with the current health care system, in terms of accessibility as well as cost. Also in accepting her nomination, Benjamin described her own hardships faced by disease and illness in her own family. She noted the deaths of her brother, who died of HIV, as well as her father, who died of high blood pressure and diabetes, and her mother who died of lung cancer, all of which, she implied, were "preventable diseases."
In January 2010, Benjamin released her first document, entitled "The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation." In it she highlighted the alarming trend of overweight and obese Americans, and offered a blueprint for grassroots efforts to make changes that promote the health and wellness of families and communities. Her work in this area has continued. One innovative program encouraged women of color to exercise more and not skip the gym for fear of "messing up their hair" gave $5,000 to the winner of a healthy hair and fitness competition. This was detailed in an NPR interview. During the course of this interview several other programs were discussed, including the campaign against obesity, and the "Million Hearts" campaign to prevent one million heart attacks each year.
In September, 2012, Surgeon General Benjamin issued "The 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, a report from the U.S. Surgeon General and the Action Alliance". This report discussed 13 goals and 60 objectives for reducing suicides over the next 10 years. In 2001, Surgeon General David Satcher launched the first National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.
New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman said that Benjamin, "like most of her predecessors," avoided controversy, and avoided criticizing industry. The 2010 report, he said, blames "the victims" for eating too much and not getting enough exercise, while ignoring the marketing of junk food, and the scientific evidence for the contribution of sugar-sweetened food to obesity.
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