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All TEDMED Posts, health

In her 2017 TEDMED Talk, Rwanda’s former Minister of Health, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, shed light on the experience of rebuilding Rwanda’s health system after the devastating 1994 genocide. We talked with Agnes to learn more about her past efforts and to find out what she’s working on today.


TEDMED: Can you describe some of the biggest challenges you faced as you began work to rebuild Rwanda’s health system? How did you overcome them?

Agnes Binagwaho: The biggest challenge I faced was figuring out how to do the most good and save the most lives with the extremely limited resources and infrastructure that existed, and beyond that, figuring out how to contribute to the growth of a system that would deliver the quality care I wanted for all children of Rwanda. Rwanda’s health sector was destroyed and there was a strong need for not just health professionals, but committed health fighters. We overcame these challenges by uniting as a country to determine the best way forward while still remaining true to our vision. We knew that if anyone was going to stand up for us, it was going to have to be us. We took that national commitment and leveraged it into a real transformation, a transformation in which our systems and our laws are mandated to serve the most vulnerable and to leave no one out.

TM: Have you seen Rwanda’s health system successes be leveraged in other countries? Have there been other unexpected outcomes that have emerged as a result of your work?

AB: In many places, similar interventions, policies, and practices are being introduced as the ones we introduced in Rwanda. Particularly around how, as a country, we are able to provide equitable, quality health care to all, and how to use ICT in the management of the health system. Our health professionals often advise other national health sectors or organizations on the lessons learned in Rwanda and how they can be applied elsewhere. We are part of a global fight to make a healthier future and we are learning from one another so that we will all reach the SDGs.

TM: You are the Vice Chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity, which is unlike any other university we know. What is global health equity, and how do you teach it?

AB: At the University of Global Health Equity, our vision is a world where every individual – no matter who they are or where they live – can lead a healthy and productive life. We know that this vision is ambitious and that we will face a lot of challenges in its pursuit. We teach the values of accompaniment, compassion, commitment, and integrity to ensure a preferential option for the poor in health care. Our students are trained to connect with the communities most in need and to break down the barriers between academia and medicine and cities and rural or impoverished settings. They are trained to advocate for patients and to look beyond the traditional margins of health care and integrate a holistic view of health into practice and policymaking. At UGHE, we empower global health professionals to be leaders and managers and to use these tools to solve problems for those most in need, and to find lasting and inclusive solutions to the greatest global health challenges today.

Dr. Agnes Binagwaho leads a group discussion during the University of Global Health Equity’s Global Health Delivery Leadership Program, a certificate course conducted in partnership with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Photo by Zacharias Abubeker for UGHE.

TM: What advice would you give young emerging leaders interested in politics and health reform?

AB: I would tell any young leader interested in this field to join us without hesitation, we need young and energetic thinkers to take up the fight for global health equity and to bring new ideas and innovative solutions to the health challenges of today and tomorrow. I would tell them to follow their dreams and to find what motivates them for public good. We need global health fighters that are passionate and outspoken advocates for those most in need. The field of global health is vast and multidisciplinary, and everyone has a role to play in ensuring access to quality health care for all. There is so much to do.

TM: What was the TEDMED experience like for you?

AB: The experience of the TEDMED talk was great; the scientific content was fantastic and spanned a variety of topics. I loved it; and I learned a lot. It was well organized and I felt really welcome in the community. It was also an occasion for networking with people with diverse experiences, but with the same goals, passions, and vision for a healthier future. I am grateful for the opportunity to come together with such great thinkers and advocates.



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Written and submitted by Mark Tyndall.

Epidemiologist, physician and public health expert Mark Tyndall has dedicated his career to studying HIV, poverty, and drug use in multiple places around the world, starting with Nairobi, and now in Vancouver. Mark spoke on the TEDMED Stage in 2017, and you can watch his talk here.


We are now well into year three of an opioid overdose epidemic in North America. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of unintentional deaths for adults between 20 and 50 years old, far out-stripping automobile crashes, suicides and homicides. In many cities, first responders now spend the majority of their time racing to the next overdose and filling emergency departments with overdose victims. While the loss of life is tragic beyond words, the impacts of this crisis go far beyond the individual and will leave families forever broken, communities torn apart and children with no parents.

Yet despite the ongoing crisis, we find ourselves stuck debating the most mundane issues and doubling down on the very policies that have created all this misery in the first place. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we cling to the belief that any programs designed to reduce the risk of overdose and make drug use less hazardous will somehow encourage people to keep using drugs, dissuade people from entering addiction treatment, make our neighbourhoods more dangerous, and entice our youth to launch into a career of drug use. Common-sense, evidence-based harm reduction interventions like needle distribution programs, supervised injection sites, naloxone distribution, methadone and buprenorphine substitution therapy, low-barrier supportive housing, and accessible residential addiction care are shot down as unacceptable, disruptive, risky and too expensive.

Apparently devoid of any new ideas, we fall back to our worst tendencies – demonizing drugs and the people who use them. The moral panic that is perpetuated in the media gives us cover to continue to stigmatize people who are using drugs and commit them to ever harsher criminal sanctions that all but ensure they can never recover. This is all based on some sort of magical thinking. Do we really believe that if only we punished and isolated people more that they would stop using drugs? Do we really think that taking society’s most vulnerable people and cycling them through the prison system is part of a recovery program? Do we really think that busting drug dealers reduces drug use?

It is clear that the upstream drivers of addiction – the poverty, the hopelessness, the trauma, the isolation, the violence, the physical pain and the mental illness – must be addressed. More people are in pain, more people are being left behind, and more people are using drugs to self-medicate. In such an environment, it is in everyone’s best interest to make drug use as safe as possible while we invest in the myriad of societal challenges that are driving demand. We need a whole different approach to drug use and addiction that recognizes that people will continue to use drugs as long as they feel that drugs are their best option. Pushing people with drug addiction to the margins of society by continuing to enforce drug policies based on crime and punishment just doesn’t make sense.

September 19, 2016, Vancouver, B.C. —Urban artist Smokey Devil’s work is prominent in the alleys of Gastown and the Downtown Eastside, most of them pleading with locals to take care of themselves in the wake of Fentanyl overdoses. Gordon McIntyre / PNG [PNG Merlin Archive]
There is no indication that the overdose epidemic will go away anytime soon. While many thousands of people have already died, it is clear that there are many more at risk. In many communities the street supply of opioids, which was traditionally dominated by diverted prescription opioids and imported heroin has been largely replaced by potent synthetic opioids – mainly fentanyl. In fact, in many places the chance of dying of an overdose today has increased from a year ago due to the worsening toxicity of the supply.

We urgently need a comprehensive approach to the overdose crisis that is built on reducing the upstream drivers of drug addiction while promoting proven harm reduction initiatives that reduce the adverse health effects of drug use, provide a crucial point of connection, and keep people alive. This will require a dramatic shift in the way we treat people who use drugs and removal of the perverse criminal sanctions that continue to ruin lives and perpetuate the overdose crisis.



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All TEDMED Posts, health

Written and submitted by Senator William Frist, M.D.

Former Senator Bill Frist is a nationally acclaimed heart and lung transplant surgeon, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, and chairman of the Distinguished Executives Council of the healthcare firm Cressey & Company. Bill spoke on the TEDMED Stage in 2017, and you can watch his talk here.


A life-changing story has been missed by the media and the general public. But it will be highlighted in the history books in future generations.

The story is that for less than 1% of our federal budget, the United States since 1990 has led the world in reducing by half those living in extreme poverty and halving the number of deaths of those suffering from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Moreover, we have cut in half the number of deaths of children under 5 through advancing vaccinations worldwide. And we have halved the number of deaths due to maternal mortality by training skilled birthing attendants and providing contraceptives for women. Our nation has forged the path with funding and infrastructure to tackle global disease, preventable deaths, and treatable illnesses to save the lives of millions.

Our legacy of global leadership was cemented in 2003 with the passage of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which I helped shepherd through Congress as Senate Majority Leader. PEPFAR provided an astounding $15 billion to fight AIDS across Africa and the developing world — more than any country or any President has ever committed to fight a single disease. Today, over 13 million people in developing nations receive life-saving antiretroviral treatment, compared to only 50,000 in sub-Saharan Africa when the program began.

Less well known but perhaps even more remarkably, PEPFAR has served as a powerful “currency for peace.” Countries that received PEPFAR assistance saw reduced political instability and violence, improved rule of law, increased economic output per worker, and improved views of the U.S., compared to similar non-PEPFAR regional countries. Our investment went beyond saving lives: it put nations on the track to peace and prosperity while improving America’s own national security and global standing.

Last year, the Trump Administration seemed to ignore decades of progress and shortsightedly recommended a draconian cut of more than 30% to our U.S. foreign assistance. Hope Through Healing Hands, a global health organization I founded 14 years ago, stood on the frontlines of advocacy with public health advocates, faith leaders, academic researchers, nonprofit leaders, and others who called on Congress to restore full funding for the international affairs budget. We sent letters with over 150 signatories, made phone calls, and flew leaders to Washington to share this message with members of Congress. We reminded elected officials of the critical importance of uplifting the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Thankfully, bipartisan champions in Congress, including Senators Graham, Boozman, Collins, and Murkowski to name a few, recognized the vital impact of these global health programs and responded with a 4% increase in overall funding. But a year later, those funds are once again under attack.

The Trump Administration has again recommended a cut this year of 30% to foreign assistance. We will be diligent in our advocacy, and steadfast in our support to continue the momentum of leadership in saving lives and ending extreme poverty in the midst of famine, conflict, and population growth. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because history will judge us on whether the U.S. maintained global leadership in global health and stayed the course… or relented to a national “Me First” philosophy.

Congress and the President just enacted a budget that increases funding for our military. Now let’s match that force of arms with the greatest strength the world has ever seen when it comes to medical mercy. Let’s practice the lesson of peace through healing. Let’s remember that rogue regimes and hateful fanatics are not the only threats to global peace.

Disease is a threat to peace. Pandemics are a threat to peace. Illness and hopelessness are threats to peace. And so, in a world facing all of these threats, now is precisely the wrong time to cut back on our modest funding for global health. To be blunt, you don’t go to war with someone who has just saved the life of your child.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In our time, we’ve learned that a threat to health anywhere is a threat to peace everywhere.

We can bring more peace to the world and to ourselves, not only by deterrence – but also by compassion, by the power of healing hands, and by medicine as a currency for peace.



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All TEDMED Posts, health

Today, our Editorial Advisory Board gathers in San Francisco for it’s second meeting in the last two weeks. These are the first of several meetings and conversations where we’ll to shape this year’s program and curate the ideas and thought-leaders that will take the stage.

As we immerse ourselves in the design of TEDMED 2018, we’re thrilled to be able to share this year’s event theme: Chaos+Clarity.

Typically, clarity is thought to emerge from chaos. But as we think about these conditions, we’re inspired by their entangled nature, each acting as provocateurs in their own unique ways. We see them as being engaged in an ongoing conversation. Chaos is the question. Clarity is the answer. The more chaos we embrace, the more clarity we can discover.

While chaos is often messy and may appear unscientific, it’s actually the friend of the scientific method. It’s the place where breakthroughs are made. Where the magic happens. And where clarity is found. Clarity, on the other hand, is hidden inside of chaos, and sometimes vice versa, just waiting to be discovered if we know how and where to look.

Join us for TEDMED 2018, and we’ll explore and embrace the power of Chaos+Clarity in advancing science, global public health, and medical innovation across a wide range of topics. Together, we’ll explore new developments in neuroprosthetics; the global epidemic of chronic disease; how to design our way to better health outcomes; the relationship between immigration and health; the science of aging; social isolation in the age of social media; gender equity and harassment in science and medicine: the trauma of violence and mass casualty; the power of resilience; and much more.

Be part of a community shining a spotlight on the inspiration that lives at the intersection of Chaos+Clarity.

We look forward to seeing you at TEDMED 2018.



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All TEDMED Posts, health

This week, our Editorial Advisory Board kicks off a series of meetings designed to curate the topics, themes, ideas and stories that will shape the TEDMED 2018 program. As always, we will balance our review of the medical and scientific landscape with strong consideration of performance, visual arts, and narrative. We believe that scientific and artistic exploration ultimately share the same goal, which is to explain and communicate difficult concepts, and to create a deeper and more fuller understanding of ourselves, and the world in which we live. For this reason, art and design are an important part of the TEDMED program– to us, there is no clear division between science and art.

We’ve had some amazing artists who beautifully illustrate this connection between medicine and art from the TEDMED stage. For example, last year, cellist Zoë Keating shared how the emotions involved with her husband’s battle with cancer transformed her music, and how the artistic process has helped her heal and communicate her feelings more completely than she ever could through words. Visual artist Jennifer Chenoweth brought her XYZ Atlas project to TEDMED, and demonstrated how visualizing experiences and emotions can actually help communities become stronger and healthier.

A wide range of artistic talents join us each year, such as pianist Richard Kogan, painter Ted Meyer, fashion designer Kristin Neidlinger, art curator Christine McNabb, documentarian Holly Morris, improv performers Karen Stobbe and Mondy Carter, chef John La Puma, photographer Kitra Cahana, musician Gerardo Contino, and many more. And more broadly, storytelling itself is an artform. Every speaker from all backgrounds carefully craft their talk to share a unique gift with the TEDMED community. Every talk is therefore a piece of art the speaker shares with the audience.

And quite literally, our speakers themselves become pieces of art, because an important part of our event design each year is to work with artists who create portraits of our speakers. From widely acclaimed figures like Hanoch Piven and Victor Juhasz, to a collaborative project created by several RISD art students, to the fantastic work of Gabriel Gutierrez and Lauren Hess who were chosen from our community, we’ve been lucky to work with amazing talent. These artists are invited to TEDMED and become an important part of our Delegation. Find out more about their beautiful work here.

LOOKING FOR THIS YEAR’S ARTIST
Again this year, we’re excited to begin a search for the artist or artists who will help us bring this year’s speaker portraits to life. As part of our search, we’re officially accepting artist nominations and applications for TEDMED 2018.

Just as every year, our chosen artist or artists will join our community for 3 days in Palm Springs, CA at the La Quinta Resort and Club, November 14-16 for TEDMED 2018 (travel and accommodations covered by TEDMED).  If you are interested, or know someone who might be, read on!

ELIGIBILITY AND TIME FRAME
This call is open to amateur and professional artists, and all art mediums will be considered. While not required, the artist would ideally have a close tie to health and medicine. This could take form in the following ways:

  • Experience in the medical community
  • Experience working with patients
  • A personal story connecting the artist to health and medicine

ABOUT THE PROJECT
The artist will need to produce roughly 50 portraits over the course of the next few months. Illustrations will be based on reference photos that will be provided. Final portraits will need to be delivered as high res digital files based on our specifications.

The work will take place between March – July 2017.

HOW TO APPLY
To apply (or nominate an artist), please send an email to art@tedmed.com. Be sure to include a work sample, a brief bio, any relevant links, and details about the best way to get in touch (email, cell, etc.). If the artist is a good fit, someone from our team will reach out.

Application deadline: Midnight, March 12, 2018.



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All TEDMED Posts, health, Howard Stevenson, Penn GSE, Racial Empowerment Collaborative, racial literacy, TEDMED

Written and submitted by Howard Stevenson, Ph.D..

Howard C. Stevenson is Director of the Racial Empowerment Collaborative (REC). Howard is also the Constance Clayton Professor of Urban Education and Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. Howard spoke on the TEDMED stage in 2017, and you can watch his talk here.


Imagine someone walking up to your 12 year old while they are styling down the street, playing in the park, or simply listening to music. To you, these are the daily experiences of childhood. To your child, these are behaviors of belonging in the world. But what if the person who walked up to your 12 year old saw your child as a thug, assumed the toy they were holding was a weapon, misjudged their cultural styling as a threatening move and assaulted their bodies, history, knowledge, identity, beauty, freedom, and genius in self-defense?

For parents of Black and Brown children, the stress of wondering if our children will come home safely is debilitating. We cannot always trust authority figures to act humanely toward our children. Our worry about their safety disrupts the ground we walk on. Moreover, not all parents have to fear that their children will be racially profiled. Racial threat research suggests that adults over-react to the ways boys and girls of color speak their minds and physically move. When racially threatened, adults perceive children and adults of color as older, larger, and closer than they really are. When authority figures over-react, they protect themselves first and too often make the most punitive “in-the-moment” decision toward youth of color.

What is the emotional cost for youth and adults of being exposed to repeated disrespectful attitudes, social interactions, and false accusations? The more Black and Brown youth experience subtle or blatant racial rejection from society and within schools, the less they feel safe, trust others, get peaceful sleep, or perform well at school.

Some parents try to teach their children to fit in and assimilate so as to not appear different and garner any negative attention. Be pretty. Some prepare them explicitly for potential racial hatred. Be on guard. Others still prefer to not “racially burden” their children, hoping they won’t face trouble. Be invisible. Unfortunately, a lot of “don’ts” lurk close by, like “don’t be angry” or “loud” or “too Black.” What is a parent left to do? Teaching racial literacy—or the ability to read, recast, and resolve racially stressful situations—can be one answer.

It’s like panther senses. Did you know that panthers have sensitive whiskers that help them navigate darkness? What if young people of color could learn to trust their panther senses before, during, and after these situations and learn to “be you?”

Racial literacy involves teaching youth of color to appreciate their cultural genius and discern racial support and rejection (read), reduce the stress of that rejection (recast) so they can make healthy decisions that benefit their well-being (resolve). Neither a cure for discrimination or a last ditch survival strategy, racial literacy skills can be a healing response to daily racial microaggressions.

Our research at the Racial Empowerment Collaborative shows that the more parents or children report socialization about negotiating racial politics, the better they report improvements in self-esteem, anger management, depression, and academic achievement. However, not all the racial conversations parents report yield positive results. The more children reported their parents socialized them to fit into mainstream society, the higher their depression scores. Why? We think it’s because many of the environments our young people of color enter don’t appreciate their difference.

Howard and the REC team.

Racial literacy can also be applied to the school environment. When harassed at school, students of color struggle to see the benefits of trying to fit into hostile social networks for the sake of future social mobility. We believe racial literacy at school is more likely to lead to more positive health outcomes because it 1) affirms Black and Brown youth’s accurate discernment of societal hostility or support; 2) reframes any racial rejection as the haters’ problem, not theirs; and 3) promotes them to embrace their genius and not question their potential. Once youth of color embrace their differences and the healing benefits of their culture, they develop confidence to engage rather than fight, flee, or freeze in the face of discrimination.

But without practice, none of these literacy skills become instinctual, like panther senses.

If “belonging” is the acceptance of my difference and competence, and “fitting in” is the dependence on other people’s acceptance of me, then why am I not questioning that acceptance if it’s rooted in inferiority? For many youth of color, “belonging” is to “fitting in” what “being myself” is to “pretending.”

Parents can’t always be there to protect their children from racial discrimination, and life offers no guarantees for our children. But we can equip them with the cultural tools to belong within whatever context they inhabit. Additionally, we can encourage them to choose to make healthy decisions around whether to accept or challenge other people’s perceptions of their difference and their potential. Be you.



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All TEDMED Posts, health

Over the next several months, the 2018 TEDMED Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) will begin meeting to discuss the most important and timely topics in health and medicine—all in preparation for designing this year’s Stage Program. The EAB members play critical roles in our community, contributing their time, knowledge, and insights to ensure that each TEDMED event highlights the key issues and groundbreaking innovations related to health around the world.

This year’s EAB consists of 20 thought leaders representing backgrounds and organizations that intersect all areas of health and medicine, including including scientific research, medical journalism, philanthropy, clinical care, psychology and behavioral science, clinical care, infectious disease, health entrepreneurship and venture capital, neuroscience, and health policy. Their diverse experiences and areas of expertise inform the broad spectrum of ideas integral to shaping our multidisciplinary program and ensuring it is inclusive and cutting edge.

We’re honored to announce the 2018 TEDMED Editorial Advisory Board:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can learn more about the EAB and their role on TEDMED.com.



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All TEDMED Posts, health

As 2017 comes to a close, we at TEDMED are filled with both gratitude and reflection. This has been an exciting year in the world of health and medicine, with unprecedented advances in areas like gene editing and artificial intelligence, and groundbreaking research on diseases such as Zika and cancer. There have also been many challenges: opioid abuse and addiction continues to rise; funding for global health programs remains uncertain; and rates of loneliness and isolation are increasing and negatively impacting our health.

This last point feels particularly relevant during the holidays, when many of us take time off to celebrate and be with our friends and families. For those who feel alone, this can be an especially difficult time of year. In a survey of approximately 3,000 adults over the age of 45, AARP found that over one-third of respondents were lonely, due in part to a perceived lack of social support and a shrinking network of friends. This translates to roughly 42.6 million adults in the United States who suffer from chronic loneliness, which can be as significant a risk to mortality as commonly accepted factors like diabetes and hypertension.

By reaching out to and reconnecting with friends and family members this holiday season, you can improve your own health and that of your loved ones while also reducing loneliness. Studies compiled by Psychology Today show that strong social connectivity can strengthen our immune systems, increase self-esteem, and lower rates of anxiety and depression. Social connectivity can even reduce the risk of early death by up to 50%.

As our team prepares to unplug these next few weeks, we reached out to a few members of the extended TEDMED Community to learn more about their reflections from 2017, their hopes for 2018, and how they plan to connect with the important people in their lives this holiday season.

We asked: “When you reflect back on 2017, what do you see as some of the successes and challenges in health and medicine?”

Karen Hogan, TEDMED 2017 Hive Innovator

“Looking back on 2017, advances in healthcare technology and treatments are incredibly inspiring,” said Karen Hogan, 2017 Hive Innovator and Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Biorealize. “I was also excited to see not only advances in healthcare related to physical illness, but also a more broad discussion emerging on a holistic approach to treating emotional and mental wellness in the same light.”  

She continued, “A major challenge, and one that worries me, is what appears to be an ever increasing divide among those that can afford access to healthcare and those that cannot. I believe access to healthcare is a human right and I hope to see that mentality more broadly adopted in 2018.”

Access to health was also on the mind for Heidi Allen, a 2017 TEDMED Speaker and Associate Professor of Social Work at Columbia University who specializes in health insurance policy.

“[This year] brought a considerable amount of uncertainty related to the future of the Affordable Care Act. It seems that every other week there was a ‘repeal and replace’ proposal in Congress that appeared inevitable,” Heidi said. “I imagine this ambiguity was particularly difficult for patients in the midst of a health crisis. Concerns about losing their insurance mid-treatment and the consequences of having a pre-existing without the protections of the ACA must have occupied the minds of many Americans.”

Pediatric endocrinologist and 2017 TEDMED Speaker Ximena Lopez told us that following a year during which she often felt despair in the face of what she described as a lack of scientific and medical progress, “hearing the speakers at TEDMED 2017 gave me hope about humanity.”

Mark Tyndall, 2017 Speaker and the Director of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, said a major challenge in public health this year has been managing the overdose crisis.

“I have been involved with a number of prevention initiatives and speaking opportunities around this—including of course the TEDMED talk,” he said. “There is a real opportunity to change the whole way that we view drug use in Canada but it is discouraging at times to see how stigma and apathy make progress so difficult and cloud our common sense.”

We also asked “What do you hope for in health and medicine in 2018?”

“In 2018 I hope that we create efficiencies in how consumers and healthcare organizations can find out about the great work that many researchers and entrepreneurs are working on,” said Jo Schneier, 2017 Hive Innovator and CEO and Co-Founder of Cognotion. “There are so many breakthroughs happening but getting them into people’s hands is my dream for 2018.”

Heidi said, “I hope that 2018 will bring policy-makers from across the political spectrum to the same table. We are going to need tremendous creativity and courage from our leaders if we are going to reduce systemic health care costs without doing so on the backs of the poor or the sick.”

For Sophie Andrews, 2017 TEDMED Speaker and CEO of The Silver Line, the outlook is simple. “Winston Churchill famously said, ‘We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give,’” she said. “So I guess that means we shouldn’t lose sight of the simple stuff too, and those simple acts of kindness on a global scale will affect all of us and make the world a healthier and happier place to live in.

Finally, we asked: “As the new year approaches, what are your plans to connect with your loved ones, and with yourself?”

Sophie said, “My plans are fairly simple—to see as many loved ones as I can and take the time to pick the phone up to people I might have neglected. The bigger the New Year resolution is, the more likely you fail, so I’m going to do better at keeping in touch with people in 2018 and cherish time with special people more.”

She continued, “I’ll ask myself each week ‘how many conversations have I had this week that are not related to work?’ because it’s a healthy check to make sure I’m not becoming a work bore, and that it hasn’t taken over!”

Ximena emphasized the opportunity to use this time for teaching the value of togetherness. “I hope to be able to teach my son the importance of spending the holidays with family and your loved ones.”

Mark Tyndall, TEDMED 2017 Speaker

Mark said he plans to spend time unplugging and being active with his family. “Holidays are a great time to reflect and scheme about how to connect better with those you love. Family activities will be central to this in the new year—cross-country skiing and mountain biking are rather new family activities that involve fresh mountain air and no screens or keyboards.”

Finally, for Jo, it’s all about community.I live in a rare neighborhood in NYC where all the neighbors know each other. We are planning on bringing in the New Year with our community at one of our neighbor’s houses. It is something I am very grateful for!”

We hope you find these insights from our speakers as valuable and thought-provoking as we do. From all of us here at TEDMED, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season filled with much joy and of course, meaningful connections. We look forward to reconnecting in the new year.



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All TEDMED Posts, childhood obesity, children's health, gender dysphoria, GENECIS, health, Howard C. Stevenson, Racial Empowerment Collaborative, racial literacy, Sandy Hassink, TEDMED, Ximena Lopez

If we want to build a stronger foundation of health for tomorrow, we need to start with our children today. This year at TEDMED, the program will showcase Speakers who are are dedicated to supporting young people in shaping positive, healthy lifestyles. From helping children living in challenging environments to make healthier choices, to supporting transgender teens and their families with mental and physical health services, to providing young people with new tools to deal with the effects of race issues, these three TEDMED 2017 Speakers are empowering the next generation to navigate today’s complex health challenges and to take charge of their own health.

Physician Sandy Hassink has dedicated her career to helping children achieve a healthy weight. As President of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Chair of the AAP Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight Advisory Board and Steering Committee, Sandy aims to ensure every child has access to a healthy and supportive environment, where nourishing food and opportunities for physical activity are readily available. Unfortunately, many Americans don’t live in communities that enable healthy behaviors. For instance, over 23 million Americans (including 6.5 million children) live more than one mile from a supermarket. With this type of statistic in mind, Sandy stresses the importance of understanding that the health decisions people make go beyond willpower or lack of knowledge, and she focuses instead on the ways a person’s neighborhood and physical surroundings ultimately affect their diet and activity choices. Furthermore, Sandy believes influencing healthy behavior is less about telling people what to eat or how to move and more about getting families and children involved in shaping their own healthy lifestyles. Bringing health closer to home has the potential to make long lasting positive impacts—as Sandy puts it, “good nutrition in childhood sets the stage for lifelong healthy eating.”

While childhood obesity is considered one of the nation’s largest health concerns, other important issues related to the health of young people have started receiving more attention in recent years. Gender dysphoria, or the distress that occurs when an individual does not identify with the sex and gender they were assigned at birth, affects an estimated one in 30,000 males and one in 100,000 females in the United States (though data is limited, and studies from other countries suggest this number may be higher). Yet when pediatric endocrinologist Ximena Lopez was first approached by parents looking for medical advice for their child, who was struggling with gender dysphoria, Ximena learned that the only experience her hospital had with transgender youth was in the psychiatric ward. Due to reasons such as discrimination, bullying, isolation, and lack of support, the prevalence of suicide attempts among transgender individuals is 41%—compared to 4.6% of the overall U.S. population. Ximena knew she had to do something to help. In 2014, Ximena founded the Children’s Gender Education and Care Interdisciplinary Support Program, or the GENECIS Program, at Children’s Health in Dallas, Texas, which has grown from five patients to 60. The multidisciplinary team at GENECIS works with patients on everything from medical interventions to mental health support. Ximena stresses that early intervention, treatment, and parental support are key ingredients to a successful outcome. “The parents feel like you’re saving their children,” she says, “and these patients feel like you’re saving them.”

Children and young people confront different types of health stressors every day. Race issues, often a taboo topic and not openly discussed, can be at the root of emotional stress for many young people. Howard C. Stevenson believes it is essential that everyone is given the tools and skills to openly talk about race and to express ourselves in a healthy way when faced with racially stressful situations. To foster these types of important conversations, Howard promotes racial literacy—“the ability to read, recast, and resolve racially stressful encounters”—in schools, families, and communities. At the Racial Empowerment Collaborative, where Howard is Executive Director, programs like EMBRace (Engaging, Managing, and Bonding through Race) are designed to help children and parents reduce and manage racial stress and trauma. Instead of internalizing the emotions connected with racially charged encounters, these programs empower young participants with the tools to successfully navigate difficult conflicts. Through the Collaborative, Howard is helping youth to reduce stress, build confidence, and to stand up for themselves in a productive and healthy way.

The Racial Empowerment Collaborative at Penn GSE.

Kids are the future. Yes, it’s a cliche, but it’s also the truth. These three thought leaders recognize the importance of equipping the next generation with the tools they’ll need to navigate important health decisions and empowering them with the knowledge to live healthy lives now and into adulthood.



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The TEDMED Community is comprised of a powerful network of thinkers, leaders and doers who commit their energy and time towards making the world a better and healthier place. The Community is one of impact and purpose with no shortage of passion from all different points of view, backgrounds and areas of expertise. We rely on our Community to help amplify the voices of those working on the frontlines of health and medicine around the world, whether by collaborating with our Editorial Advisory Board in helping to design the Stage Program, working with our Research Scholars to evaluate potential Speakers, or engaging with Community members in important conversations at TEDMED each year. This passionate group of individuals constantly inspires us.

One of those individuals is Rich Besser, the new CEO and President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Recognizing Rich’s knack for storytelling and obvious passion for creating a healthier world, we asked him to be TEDMED’s first Session co-curator. The result of this collaboration is the impressive TEDMED 2017 Session called Raising Health. We recently spent some time talking with Rich about his connection to the session and the importance of creating a society that values the health of all children equally.


TEDMED (TM): We are excited to have you as TEDMED’s first Guest Curator of a session! What does this opportunity means to you, and why did you want to focus the session on “Raising Health”?

Rich Besser (Rich): I think this is an incredible opportunity to reach an important audience. The opportunity to be a guest curator gives me the chance to try and change how people think about health in many ways. As a pediatrician and a parent, I know the key role that children play in the health of a community and the health of society. Pediatrics is all about potential and what you can do to make sure that a child has the opportunity to grow up healthy. What I’m hoping here is that with this session people will start to think about all of the things that go into creating the circumstances for a child to be healthy. The speakers that I pulled together for this session look at those circumstances in many different ways that I think will expand the thinking for our audience.

TM: If your session was not limited by time, what are the other topics and themes that you would include?

Rich: I would expand the session to tackle some drivers of health that are a little more challenging to grasp, like housing and transportation and linking those directly to children’s health. I think this session will get people thinking in new ways and expand their ideas as to what it means for us all to embrace the children in our community and give them healthy beginnings.

TM: Given the synergies between your personal commitment to improving health and TEDMED’s commitment to sharing the important work and ideas of those leading the way, is there a recent story that has inspired you as you’ve transitioned into your new role at RWJF?

Rich: I’m really new to the Foundation and it’s been an incredible experience getting to know about the work. I’ve never worked at a place where people have more passion for the mission than they do here at the Foundation, and that’s one of the things that really attracted me here.

During the years that I spent at ABC News, I continued to work as a general pediatrician at a community clinic up in Harlem. Once a week, I would leave the wealthy neighborhood around our offices, get on the number 1 subway train and travel about 15 minutes to clinic where I would care for children, 80% of whom were in foster care. Their stories were just incredible and the experiences that these children, at a very early age, had gone through were incredible. Many had parents who were incarcerated or struggling with issues of addiction. Some children were homeless or physically or emotionally abused. And I know from data that the Foundation and others put out that the future for the children in that community was totally different from the children who lived near our studio around Lincoln Circle. And that’s not acceptable. Geography should not define destiny.

Here at the Foundation, that disparity is not acceptable. So, to be working at a place where the mission is all about ensuring that everyone in America, especially the most vulnerable, has a fair and just opportunity for his or her best health and well-being, to me is an absolute privilege. And to bring that message to TEDMED for me is just a wonderful opportunity.

TM: When you think about your time at TEDMED, are there a couple of things that you hope the community takes away from your session? And when you think about yourself personally, what do you hope to take away from the experience?

Rich: I’m looking for new ideas. I like to talk to people who either haven’t thought about these problems before or are coming at them from a totally different perspective, because I think that’s what challenges us to think about new things and try new potential solutions. What I hope they take away from this session is not just mind expansion, but I hope they come away feeling some ownership of the issues that we’re raising and feeling some inspiration to action. If they walk away asking, “what can I personally do to help my community raise healthy kids, to make sure that every child in my community has the opportunity to live a healthy life?” then I think this session will really be a success.

TM: This year, the TEDMED event theme is “Limitless.” When we think of our theme this year, it’s guided by the idea that–just as your fingerprint is unique impression of you, so is your contribution to shaping a healthier world. As part of the event, we are asking that all of our community respond to this. What would your response be – how are you shaping a healthier world?

Rich: You know, I am trying, through the work that I do and through how I lead my life, to help create a society in which we all value every child as if they were our own and where we are creating the circumstances so that every child has a chance to be their most successful and their healthiest. I remember when I was in college feeling a sense of idealism and wanting to make the world better. People would say that you grow out of it. I haven’t grown out of it and I hope I never do because I think that when you’ve got big goals and you really believe in the power of change, and the power of people coming together, and the goodness of people, that is when we can make a big difference in the world for people now and for future generations.


Learn more about the Raising Health Session and the inspiring Co-host and Speakers who will bring it to life:

Rich Besser, Pediatric Health Reformer
Camila Ventura, Zika Family Caregiver
Chera Kowalksi, First Responder Librarian
Dan Knights, Computational Microbiologist
Heidi Allen, Health Access Investigator
Howard Stevenson, Racial Literacy Leader
Jill Goldstein, Clinical Neuroscientist
Sandy Hassink, Pediatric Obesity Fighter



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