Regina Benjamin, surgeon general of the United States, was in Somerville Friday morning to talk about a $1.57 million federal grand awarded to Middlesex County designed to improve public health.
The grant is part of a national effort, spearheaded by the Affordable Care Act, to prevent illness and disease before they start.
Preventative health measures
Speaking at the on Washington Street, Benjamin said, "Health does not occur in the doctor's office [or] in the hospitals only."
Rather, she said, preventative health—eating right, getting physical activity, avoiding tobacco and excessive drinking—is what's really required to stay healthy and, importatnly, keep health care costs down.
"The lack of prevention takes a devastating toll," she said, adding the cost of treating heart disease in America is $444 billion a year, and a large chunk of that money goes to combating disease that could have been prevented if people lived healthier lifestyles.
Preventing medicine is a key part of the Affordable Care Act, Benjamin said, and the $1.57 million Community Prevention Grant awarded to Middlesex County is funded by that act. Using that money, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council are partnering with communities in Middlesex County to support preventative health efforts as part of a program called Mass in Motion.
The surgeon general said, "Here, in New England, on average, you're the healthiest corner of the United States," and in reference to the Massachusetts health care system, she said, "Health reform is working here."
John Auerbach, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, said, "We want people to be well and we want their use of the health care system to be as limited as possible."