TEDMED: A New Day for Health Care Change

If there is one thing that I learned from my very first experience at TEDMED, it’s that there are people who are finally not afraid to change things happening in the health care landscape. It’s become cool to talk about disruption and new concepts in the field that’s traditionally been an impenetrable fortress of sameness. And to be fair, maybe that’s why the conversation is ramping up.

[Photo: Regina Holliday]

For those of you unfamiliar with the TED (stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design) brand, the original conference started a number of years ago to showcase “ideas worth spreading”. With the groundswell of new concepts to transform health care (mobile technology, film, design elements, etc.) emerging in the last few years – it only makes sense that TED applies its brand to health and medicine.

For the first time in Washington DC (held in California in years past), TEDMED truly brought together leaders from health, medicine, science, technology – with a sprinkling of celebrity flare including Gabrielle Reese and Katie Couric, to make for engaging conversation. The sheer firepower of innovators and decision makers at the Kennedy Center gave me hope for some real movement on finding some solutions. There were a few folks that really highlighted concepts I care about.

Things got kicked off for me when Dr. Francis Collins, head of NIH, took the stage discussing the importance of moving faster in the medical science arena to develop better techniques to cure diseases. The fact that a young man (15 year old) living with progeria was able to attend and inspire the audience with his story solidified reality for the audience. This was important for me, especially because storytelling is what we are focused on with FastForward Health and I’m personally interested in people over statistics in the future of public health.

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a personal heroine of mine because of her work – also dropped some knowledge on the crowd around issues that reflect on what needs to be recognized in public health. Much of what RWJF is focused on is growing health initiatives where we live, work and play (and as Jane Sarasohn-Kahn would add: where we pray as well!). “Health is essential to the productivity of our country” mentioned Risa. This is where public health really becomes relevant – looking at the far reaching consequences of inaction for our society. In this case, economics.

Finally, John Hoffman of HBO had me thoroughly excited about the upcoming documentary – The Weight of the Nation. A series looking at obesity in America and what can be done about it. Great to see partners such as Kaiser Permanente, the Dell Foundation, NIH and CDC being involved with this project. Getting a glimpse at the series which premieres next month, May 14 and 15th, got my mind going about film, storytelling and public health – once again applications to the FastForward Health project.

After it’s all said and done – TEDMED was a great gathering of minds for networking, idea sharing and inspiration. Over the past few years of being in this space, it’s wonderful to see things heating up for positive impact. Or maybe the potential for impact. Now it’s time to take the conversation home and not lose the energy. What can we do to see actual change over the next 3 months? 6 months?

That’s the true power of TEDMED and other events like it. Come together, then do together.

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