U.S. Sur­geon Gen­eral Regina M. Ben­jamin said on Wednesday at North­eastern that health-​​care reform hinges on pre­venting dis­ease and pro­moting wellness.

We have to make pre­ven­tion part of everyday life,” she explained, noting that heart attacks result in some 800,000 deaths each year. “We need to stop dis­ease before it ever starts.”

Ben­jamin received a standing ova­tion prior to addressing approx­i­mately 100 health-​​care stake­holders who filled the Curry Stu­dent Center Ball­room on Wednesday morning for a meeting with America’s doctor.

The event — which was orga­nized by the Exec­u­tive Office of Health and Human Ser­vices of the Com­mon­wealth of Mass­a­chu­setts — focused on exam­ining the National Pre­ven­tion Strategy, a cross-​​sector plan designed by the National Pre­ven­tion, Health Pro­mo­tion and Public Health Council to increase the number of healthy Americans.

The strategy calls for empow­ering people, elim­i­nating health dis­par­i­ties and building safe and healthy com­mu­nity environments.

Health reform does not take place in a doctor’s office,” said Ben­jamin, who chairs the public health council. “It occurs where we live, work, play and pray.”

The event dove­tailed with Northeastern’s focus on use-​​inspired research that solves global chal­lenges in health, secu­rity and sus­tain­ability. Terry Fulmer, dean of the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences, touted Northeastern’s com­mit­ment to urban engage­ment and com­mu­nity health outreach.

Health sci­ences stu­dents, she said, have part­nered with lawyers, engi­neers and busi­ness leaders through co-​​op and other experiential-​​learning oppor­tu­ni­ties as part of the college’s goal of “grounding stu­dents in the real world of pro­fes­sional practice.”

Mass­a­chu­setts Gov. Deval Patrick — who was intro­duced as a “true cham­pion of health and well­ness” — called health a “public good.”

We all have a stake in each other’s access to afford­able care,” Patrick said. “Pre­ven­tion,” he added, “is a key fea­ture in con­taining health-​​care costs.”

Patrick praised the state’s health-​​care insur­ance reform law, which was enacted in 2006 and now covers 98 per­cent of its res­i­dents, including 99.8 per­cent of children.

Mass­a­chu­setts patients, he said, “no longer fear that a serious ill­ness will leave them bankrupt.”

Sandra Hen­riquez, the assis­tant sec­re­tary for Public and Indian Housing in the U.S. Depart­ment of Housing and Urban Devel­op­ment, high­lighted the impor­tance of living in a safe and eco­nom­i­cally stable neigh­bor­hood with good schools, job oppor­tu­ni­ties and access to healthy and afford­able food.

Life expectancy, edu­ca­tion attain­ment and income levels are based on your zip code,” she explained. “This needs to end.”