U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin said Monday that health care in the United States must shift its primary focus to disease prevention rather than the treatment of illness.

Dr. Benjamin addressed the 2011 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo®, calling on food scientists and producers to help spread the message about preventive care, especially reducing obesity through healthy choices.

"Our goal really is to improve the health and well-being of all Americans," she said. "We can't just pay attention to what happens in the doctor's office. It's the air we breathe and the food we eat. We can provide clear and simple information based on the latest science and research so people can make the best decisions for their families. We're working to make those healthy choices the easy choices."

Dr. Benjamin praised efforts by food companies to introduce healthier versions of their products, citing a pledge by 16 major manufacturers to cut 1.5 trillion calories from their products by 2015 to help meet the goals of First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign. Dr. Benjamin said that campaign is especially important because it is encouraging children to exercise and make good food choices, potentially reducing the number of obese young people now - and obese adults later.

"There is perhaps no more serious challenge to the nation's health and well being than the national overweight and obesity epidemic," she said. "The 'Let's Move' campaign is our vision for a healthy and fit nation."

"As America's doctor, I'm going to give you a prescription: Take time for yourselves," she said. "You work hard, you're active in your communities, but you need to take time for yourselves, too. You've got to exercise. You've got to play. You've got to enjoy yourselves."

Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)