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New U.S. Surgeon General Discusses Issues With Local Health Leaders

Ashley Lopez
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Credit Ashley Lopez / WGCU
The Florida Channel

The country’s new surgeon general stopped in Fort Myers Friday.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has been on the job for about two months and he’s been touring the country listening to local health officials talk about issues facing their communities.

He is visiting about 20 cities, taking notes and talking to local health officials and health care providers about specific issues in their area.

Murthy, who visited several cities in Florida already, said the Sunshine State has some running themes: a lack of access to health insurance for low income people and a lack of access to mental health care.

He said Southwest Florida faces these issues, too.

“The challenges I heard about today were around mental health, particularly pediatric mental health,” Murthy said. “Mental health for kids. There have been some real concerns here that that kind of care is hard to access and that we need to do better in terms of diagnosing and treating mental illness among our kids.”

Murthy also said he heard a lot of concerns about Alzheimer’s while talking to local health officials in Fort Myers.

He said even though the disease is prevalent here, local officials told him Alzheimer’s is underdiagnosed and inadequately treated.

Murthy also discussed a national public health issue he said is big problem for everyone during his stop.

He said he’s concerned about a recent measles outbreak. Murthy said just a few years ago, measles were eradicated in the U.S., but lately there’s been an alarming resurgence. He said in just the last month there were about 100 cases in 14 states.

“This is a real problem,” he told local press, “but the key message here is that measles are preventable. And the good news is that we have a vaccine that is both safe and effective for preventing measles. I want parents to know this. And if you do not immunization from the vaccine, then you have a very high chance of acquiring measles if you are around someone who has it.”

Murthy’s staff also noted Florida is particularly susceptible to a measles outbreak because of its tourism. However, there’s been no recorded cases. The Surgeon General’s listening tour has already stopped in Tampa and Orlando. Besides Fort Myers, West Palm Beach and Miami are also on his list of stops.

Copyright 2020 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Ashley Lopez
Ashley Lopez is a political correspondent for NPR based in Austin, Texas. She joined NPR in May 2022. Prior to NPR, Lopez spent more than six years as a health care and politics reporter for KUT, Austin's public radio station. Before that, she was a political reporter for NPR Member stations in Florida and Kentucky. Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Miami, Florida.