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Koop brings health crusade to TV

C. Everett Koop tried to change the world of health during eight years as surgeon general and had moderate success. He now thinks he may do even better at the task as host of five one-hour TV specials airing on NBC over the next few weeks.

The first Koop show, called simply C. Everett Koop, M.D., airs tonight at 10 p.m., and the others are set for future Sundays.

"The public is going to be mad that the state of affairs in health has gotten this far," Koop said in an interview. "I'm angry, too. But unless we tell the people what's happening and do it graphically, nothing will change.

"I know there's something seriously wrong, but the politicians won't change anything as long as health care stays No. 17 on the list of the public's concerns."

Koop is convinced that TV is the way to change the public's priorities. He could still be surgeon general, having been kept on by President Bush after serving more than seven years under former President Reagan. But he'd rather be out of office.

"You can't reach the same number of people as graphically in office as out of office," Koop says. "When not much is happening in government, it's much better to be out of government. If health care were the public's No. 2 priority instead of No. 17, we would see more action."

Koop wants his five shows to boost health care and its costs far up the ladder of political concern.

Tonight's show focuses on the 16-million American kids with no health insurance and poor pediatric care.