Former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Louis W. Sullivan was one of two special guests at last night’s kickoff session of the Association of Health Care Journalists, underway in Denver, Colorado.
He was appointed to HHS by the President George H. W. Bush and served from 1989 to 1993. Sullivan is a founder of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta and served as its president for more than two decades; was co-chair of the President’s Commission on HIV and AIDS from 2001 to 2006, and chaired the President’s Commission on Historically Black Colleges and Universities from 2002 to 2009.
Following a welcome by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, the Q&A conversation with Sullivan touched on historic issues of race, segregation, health disparities and where the health system needs to focus in the future.
Referring to the racial demographic shift underway in the U.S. population, Sullivan said, “We need to be sure that our population 50 years from now is educated and also has good health; and that population I going to be Latino, African American, Native American, as well as white,” Sullivan said, “so from the standpoint of investing in our future as a country, we need to be sure that all segments of our society are well-educated and also are healthy.”
He said these are the kinds of messages journalists can get out to the people.
“And people, if they know this and understand this and see where it is in their interest, they will get behind it,” Sullivan added. “It’s in their interest because, if you have someone who is a productive citizen, who is working, that person can be a client; can use your services; that person pays taxes to the government to support building highway or housing, etcetera.”
He supports the Affordable Care Act as a step in the right direction.
“My position is, sure it has imperfections, but let’s address those imperfections over time because we as a country should not have 27 million people without health insurance,” Sullivan said.
Among his current activities, Sullivan is chairman of the Sullivan Alliance to Transform Health Professions and he is helping get established a national health museum.
“The purpose of the health museum is to improve the literacy of Americans,” he said.
At a reception following the session, Sullivan autographed copies of his book, “Breaking Ground, My Life in Medicine.”