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News Release

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

U.S. Surgeon General Issues First Call to Action on Disability

U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, today released "The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Improve the Health and Wellness of Persons with Disabilities," appealing to all Americans to help increase the quality of life for people with disabilities through better health care and understanding. This first-ever Surgeon General's Call to Action on disability is being issued on the 15th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"This Call to Action is a call to caring. Every life has value and every person has promise," Surgeon General Carmona said. "The reality is that for too long we provided lesser care to people with disabilities. Today, we must redouble our efforts so that people with disabilities achieve full access to disease prevention and health promotion services."

Developed by the Surgeon General in collaboration with the HHS Office on Disability, the Call to Action describes the particular challenges to health and well being faced by persons of all ages with disabilities and identifies four goals that, together, can help people with disabilities experience full, rewarding and above all healthy lives as contributing members of their communities.

The four goals included in "The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Improve the Health and Wellness of Persons with Disabilities" are:

  • Increase understanding nationwide that people with disabilities can lead long, healthy, and productive lives.
  • Increase knowledge among health care professionals and provide them with tools to screen, diagnose, and treat the whole person with a disability with dignity.
  • Increase awareness among people with disabilities of the steps they can take to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  • Increase accessible health care and support services to promote independence for people with disabilities.

"Americans with disabilities often face unique challenges to achieving good health," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "As with the Americans with Disabilities Act, this Call to Action is a reminder that people with disabilities are important members of our society, and that including them in all aspects of American life is not only required by our nation's law, but also by our nation's conscience."

Today, 54 million Americans, or one in five people, are living with at least one disability, and most Americans will experience a disability some time during the course of the lives. Some individuals are born with a disability; others acquire them through an illness, an injury, genetics, or any number of other causes.

"We must learn to recognize the abilities of persons with disabilities," HHS Director of the Office on Disability Margaret Giannini, M.D., FAAP said. "People with disabilities can learn, get married, have a family, worship, vote, work, and live long, productive lives. We need to make sure we treat them as active members of our society."

The "Surgeon General's Call to Action to Improve the Health and Wellness of Persons with Disabilities" is available at www.surgeongeneral.gov.


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Last revised: July 26, 2005