HealthLeaders: How do we get started?
Benjamin: It begins in the community, at the grassroots level, and will move us to being a healthier, fitter nation. This movement has to start from the ground up. We need to have a groundswell, like with the Civil Rights movement. It has to start at the community level with people who can be out there and have an opportunity to make a difference.
HealthLeaders: Do you feel optimistic about the prospects of creating a fitter nation?
Benjamin: I really do. I am pretty excited about it and very optimistic. One of the things we have in this country is wonderful technology, and our healthcare system—including our doctors and nurses—is among the best in the world. Now we have to get over the hump, and that means keeping people from getting sick in the first place. New Orleans and Xavier, in particular, allow us to have a kind of natural laboratory.
The city of New Orleans has gone through so many challenges with hurricanes, oil spills, and high populations of uninsured. It allows our students to get training that can have a global impact and to show how we have bounced back and that if something else happens, we'll be prepared to bounce back again. I think other cities and states and nations can learn from that. If New Orleans can do it, people can do it everywhere.