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America's Health: Our Top Doctor's 2006 Report Card

Acting U.S. Surgeon General Kenneth Moritsugu weighs in on our health -- and his own.

Do you believe there is a connection between environmental pollutants and certain cancers?

Certainly we have the science to show that. We learn more every day. We don't know what causes certain cancers, and there is a relationship, positive as well as negative, between health and environment. Look at the Surgeon General report on environmental tobacco smoke -- it definitely does have an impact on well-being of children as well as adults.

If more women die of lung cancer than breast cancer, then why do so few know this startling fact?

I think it goes back to the need to improve health literacy. I am sure there is a discussion in doctors' and nurse practitioners' offices across the country about the dangers of lung as well as breast cancer. But I'm not sure people [always] have access to reliable information. A lot of info is on the web, but we have to discriminate. We need to make sure those we serve understand what we are talking about.

What simple thing can Americans do right now, today, to ensure a healthier tomorrow?

Americans can right now, today, take more of a personal interest in their health. They need to be more interested, and understand that what affects all of us tomorrow are the choices we make today. Whether that means environmental exposures -- such as smoking, choosing to exercise, or what to put in our mouths.

What disease or condition would you most like to see eradicated in your lifetime, and why?

When you look at health from a public health standpoint, the condition with the most impact is cardiovascular disease. Second is cancer. I would focus on cancer, because it is so devastating to the individual and those around them. We are closer to addressing what causes cancer and what we can do about it. We are on the verge of the knowledge and the science to do this.

What is your personal health philosophy?

My personal health philosophy is to take control of my own health and health habits.

What is your best health habit? Your worst?

My best habit is not a single thing, such as eating right -- that gives the impression that is really all you have to do. That is not the case. Your health is the result of the sum total of what you do. My best habit is constantly trying to make the right choices for my health, whether that means what I eat, how I exercise and when -- we are faced with the choices [you make] every single day. We have to make the right choices every day but we are not going to be perfect. My bad habit is making excuses ... as to why I can't do something. It is very bad, because it justifies in your mind why you can't do it. But say I may not have had best meal for lunch. I say to myself, I will do better next time.

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