Health

How Do We Nourish Nine Billion People?

About half the world’s population suffers from some form of malnutrition – 2 billion people are undernourished, 1.4 billion are overweight or obese, and 800 million are hungry – and as climate change advances, the threats will likely worsen. In the US, cutbacks in the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program mean some Americans run out food every month. Lacking the right nutrients to grow and thrive, billions around the globe cannot rise from poverty. What food and nutrition priorities should the international community set as the UN’s Millennium Development Goals expire? What is the blueprint for strengthening access to nutritious foods and sustainable agriculture? What is the role for the private sector?

Josh Lozman, Ronald Shaich, Marc Van Ameringen, Dan Glickman, Toni Verstandig, Derek Yach

How Can We Die With Dignity?

The hospice movement and other cultural and system-wide innovations in palliative care have been welcome strategies for easing the dying experience, but many people still do not have their final wishes respected. If we are to guide patients and families through life’s final stage with dignity, we need to have wiser conversations, better services, and a clearer ethical framework. What is it like to be present with people as they approach death? What roles can the young and the healthy play? What investments do we need to make to smooth the passage away from the living?

Arthur Leonard Caplan, Ai-jen Poo, Akaya Windwood, Ray Suarez

Communities That Thrive

Healthy communities put people first, with safe housing, convenient schools and workplaces, and ready access to food, water, recreation and sustainable transportation. Rural or urban, resource-rich or impoverished, they offer opportunity and hope, and reward imagination and ingenuity. These places also foster a sense of shared purpose, perhaps sporting community centers and gardens, resource-sharing activities and microenterprise, sidewalks and bike lanes. What are the must-have features of a healthy community? How should small towns and large cities be designed in the future? What does the explosion of mega-metropolises around the world mean to health?

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, Gabe Klein, Kennedy Odede, Gina Murdock, Belinda Reininger

Personalized Medicine: The Future is Now

Personalized medicine is upending hierarchies with consumer products like Scanadu, designed to track physiological signals, and 23andMe.com, which provides raw genetic data. Meanwhile, our exploding knowledge means treatments can increasingly be custom-tailored — the genetic characteristics of a tumor can predict the most effective drug to fight it; a medical image can reveal which artery-opening device will be most effective for a particular individual. How does personalized medicine change the way medicine is practiced? Is it possible to know too much? Does the US need a new regulatory framework for this unprecedented era?

The Fight for Good Food 

Since Sam Kass became senior policy advisor for Nutrition Policy at the White House, five years ago, he has been at the forefront of Michelle Obama’s campaign to convince manufacturers to reduce fat and sodium and add whole grains to their foods. A legacy of the White House will be improving school lunches — if, that is, the improvements the White House won four years ago don’t get rolled back by a Congress that says fruits and vegetables are expensive and kids don’t eat them anyway. Kass will discuss the White House’s priorities and successful strategies, the far-flung effects of the Let’s Move! campaign, and their unexpectedly heated recent fight to keep their lunch legacy alive.

Sam Kass, Corby Kummer

Women’s Health: The Unfinished Revolution

The phrase “women’s health” slips off the tongues of clinicians, public health experts, community advocates and legislators with ease, but the ideological battles of the past three decades have clouded this once-useful term. Reproductive health services and access to family planning promote health and combat poverty, but they do not represent the sum of women’s health needs or rights. Women also differ from men in how they develop, age, and respond to treatment, yet the science of their unique characteristics is alarmingly incomplete. What is “women’s health” really about, and how we do re-imagine its future?

Jane Otai, Sisonke Msimang, Courtney E. Martin, Betty King

THE ASPEN LECTURE When Experts Disagree: The Art of Medical Decision-Making

Despite medical advances and the application of scientific principles to modern medicine, there seems to be increasing controversy about the “right” diagnostic and treatment choices, even for very common medical issues – such as how best to treat high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, whether to take vitamins, especially vitamin D, and who should be screened for cancer with mammograms and PSA. And the debate is very public, fomenting confusion with almost daily stories in the media. Why are experts disagreeing? Why isn't there a clear “right” answer? And what support do patients need to make decisions in the face of such controversy?

Jerome Groopman, Pamela Hartzband

Colorado's "Right to Try" Law: A Lifeline or False Hope?

Colorado’s new “right-to-try” law, signed in May, allows terminally ill patients access to investigational drugs without federal approval. Similar legislation is being considered in other states. Supporters call it a ray of hope for people with few alternatives, while skeptics argue that the hopes could be false and the suffering worsened. The US Food and Drug Administration already has compassionate-use mechanisms in place, but action at the state level is a first. What are the clinical and ethical implications of Colorado’s action? Are states usurping federal authority? What are the rights of dying people here?

Elliot Gerson, Joe Garcia, Diane E. Meier

Amanda Boxtel, Bridging Bionics Foundation

Many people already use prosthetics to get around; now robotics is becoming another way to help people move. It’s already the case for a Basalt resident, Amanda Boxtel, who’s been paralyzed below her pelvis for decades. Boxtel is Executive Director of the Bridging Bionics Foundation. She says it’s been important to her to aim for the best quality of life possible. She talks with APR’s Elise Thatcher.

Stanford University School of Medicine

Research around mouse blood has been making the rounds in the news media lately. It even got a moment on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me earlier this month. Scientist and neurology professor Tom Rando is a key player in that research. He’s Director of the Glenn Laboratories for the Biology of Aging at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Rando spoke with APR’s Elise Thatcher, and says the blood research has taken nearly a decade.

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