Koop: Americans Must Learn to Preserve Health
Americans must learn to behave more responsibly about their own health care, former surgeon General C. Everett Koop told about 320 students, alumni and faculty last Thursday night.
"As surgeon general, I faced entirely new sets of health problems requiring new sets of solutions," Koop said during the first Harvard School of Public Health (SPH) alumni-faculty-student dinner. Koop, speaking at Boston's Colonnade Hotel, added that he found public health problems hard to solve "because they had to do with human behavior."
Koop said that the most important lesson he learned during his 8-year tenure was that "every major health issue...had at its very heart the way people behaved: the way they behave toward themselves, the way they behave toward those who they love and also the way they behave toward others who they do not know at all."
Americans are accustomed to curing illnesses rather than preventing them, Koop said. "we want everyone to behave properly, but people don't like us telling them how to behave," he said.
But given the seriousness of AIDS, teenage pregnancy and drug abuse, among other health concerns, Koop said, "we can no longer afford after-the fact responses."