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Health & Safety

The U.S. Surgeon General

StethoscopeIf you have ever seen the white warning on a box of cigarettes, you have seen the work of the Office of the Surgeon General. The Surgeon General is the leading health educator for the United States, warning Americans about dangers to their health and teaching them how to live healthier.

The Surgeon General is appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. The appointment is for a four-year term. The Surgeon General is actually the head of the Office of the Surgeon General. This office has the job of governing the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, a team of 6,000 trained public health professionals who work on the country's disease prevention and public health programs. As such, the Surgeon General holds a three-star vice admiral ranking in the Commissioned Corps while holding office. The Surgeon General and the Commissioned Corps are governed by the Office of Public Health and Science.

The Surgeon General has numerous duties beyond governing the Commissioned Corps. This officer is the symbol of the government's goal of protecting the health of the nation's citizens. The Surgeon General must provide the President and the Secretary of Health and Human Services with advice relating to health policies. This advice is to be based on thorough scientific research, so that America's leaders can make informed decisions about legislation that affects the health of each citizen.

Beyond providing advice to the President, the Surgeon General must advance public health research projects. This is often done through Surgeon General Reports about various health risks. This public official also must educate the American people about emergency preparedness with the help of the Commissioned Corps.

While the position of Surgeon General is a position that is high in the Federal government, civilians can do their part to help the Office of the Surgeon General's educational and emergency preparedness goals. The Medical Reserve Corps is made up of civilian volunteers who form community-based units that work together to donate time, energy, and resources towards emergency preparedness training, emergency response efforts, and overall healthy living education.

Because the Surgeon General helps direct health policy and funding, the office is one that has a direct impact on each American citizen, either through medical research funding or through educational programs. In 2009, newly elected President Barack Obama offered the job to Doctor Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and CNN correspondent.

Before this appointment, exiting Surgeon General Steven K. Galson introduced a new Family Health History Tool, an online tool designed to help patients and their doctors track family histories for certain conditions. He also heavily promoted Healthy Youth for a Healthy Future, a program aimed at educating the community about the dangers of childhood obesity and ways to prevent it.

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