Creating Healthy Communities: Our Fates Are Intertwined

By Mary Lou Goeke
Executive Director of the United Way of Santa Cruz County

United Way of Santa Cruz CountyFarm workers, business owners, teachers, teens, and elected officials—a cross-section of our community in Santa Cruz County, California—all came together recently to fundraise for a crucial program, the Aztecas Youth Soccer Academy. Founded by a probation officer, Aztecas uses soccer training and mentoring to redirect the lives of at-risk Latino youth who struggle with gangs, violence and poverty. This unity, this experience of rallying together behind an important cause, has become the norm in Santa Cruz County.

In Santa Cruz, we’re committed to coming together across sectors and across the community to engage everyone in the mission of improving health for our residents. At the United Way of Santa Cruz County, health is central to our primary goals: building a community that allows residents to prosper, ensuring children succeed in school, and helping families become financially independent.

More than two decades ago, stakeholders seeking to create a healthy community realized that their fates are intertwined. Our law enforcement officers would not succeed without our education leaders; our education leaders would not succeed without our faith communities; and our health care community and our social service sector would not succeed without involvement from the entire community.

Since then, we’ve joined forces to create and implement a variety of programs aimed at improving quality of life. We’ve worked to ensure all children have access to comprehensive medical, dental, vision and psychological care. We’ve launched an alternative-to-incarceration program that provides education, employment, treatment and social services to get people’s lives back on track. We’ve seen tremendous successes from our teen advocacy and leadership group, Jóvenes SANOS (Spanish for Healthy Youth), who helped enact policies to create healthier options in restaurants and corner markets.

We’ve seen seemingly unlikely allies drive forward work on important causes. Ecology Action, a local environmental organization, has been a great partner in reducing and preventing obesity through their work to create bike lanes, safe routes to school, and housing close to public transportation. Local law enforcement has sought our group’s help with pressing challenges, such as a recent increase in youth violence, acknowledging they can’t address the underlying problems alone.

In 2013, Santa Cruz was a winner of the inaugural Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize, which celebrates communities that have placed a priority on health and are creating powerful partnerships and deep commitments to help people live healthier lives.

Winning the Prize helped validate the work we were doing to build a Culture of Health and gave us the pride and confidence to tackle even tougher issues, such as homelessness, youth violence, and criminal justice reform.

Our committee to end homelessness, for example, is now implementing an innovative system to address the housing and health needs of homeless individuals and families. Using handheld devices, a variety of providers will use a shared system to identify and assess people’s needs, match them with the right resources, track the services they receive, and follow their progress over time.

When a challenge is identified, we’re able to bring together a roster of partners who already have strong relationships and strong records of success. We begin with the end goal – that everyone in Santa Cruz County should have access to safe, stable housing, for example – and identify the stakeholders who would play a role in making this a reality, including the people we’re trying to serve. Then we bring those people to the table. As a group, we turn data into action. Our every step is guided by the Community Assessment Project, an annual publication that details community goals and measures progress on air quality, unemployment, high school graduation, crime rates and other indicators.

Of course, this didn’t happen overnight. We had to build the right infrastructure for these partnerships to take place. We’ve trained more than 300 people from partner organizations on working productively in groups. We’ve refined this approach to collaboration for more than 20 years, and it’s become a discipline for us.

We’re all in this together, and, with each project, we’re taking important steps toward creating a culture that enables our residents to live the healthiest life possible.

Capturing the Emotional Impact of Vaccines: The Art of Saving a Life


Vaccines help children “be the best versions of themselves” says Malaysian singer/guitarist Yuna Zarai (Yuna). You can hear her song at http://artofsavingalife.com/artists/yuna/

Vaccines make the world safer and better; they’ve saved millions of lives that would have otherwise been lost to diseases, and they bring better health and opportunity to families everywhere. Polio, for instance, is nearly eradicated, with a 99% drop in cases since 1988. It’s estimated that vaccines now save 2-3 million lives each year.

Vaccines are among the best investments we can make to give every child a healthy start at life. It costs just $20 (USD) to vaccinate a child against four devastating diseases for a lifetime. This helps communities thrive and economies grow stronger.

We’ve made dramatic progress in fighting diseases like polio, measles, and pneumonia but we’re far from done. One in five children does not have access to these important vaccines. More lives can be saved. Our goal is to ensure that all children, no matter where they are born, get the life-saving vaccines they need.

The Art of Saving a Life

The astonishingly and creatively curated stories, paintings, music, video, sculpture, personal narrative, drawings and other art forms that make up an art collection called The Art of Saving a Life are profoundly inspiring and emotional.

The aim of this multimedia collection, commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is to celebrate the critical role of vaccines in achieving improved health for all. The exhibit is the brainchild of curator Christine McNab, a global public health worker and communications expert; she will share her experiences “breaking through silos by marrying art and science to move hearts and minds” in our Back to Basics session. Thanks to the generous support of our Partner, GlaxoSmithKline, TEDMED 2015 Delegates will have the opportunity to see, hear and (most importantly) feel the tremendous impact of immunization – with the goal of energizing us all in the ongoing global challenge of protecting every child from life-threatening diseases.

Here’s a look at some of what we’ll see in Palm Springs:

Photographer Mary Ellen Mark*: If Not for the Rubella Vaccine …

© 2014 Mary Ellen Mark

© 2014 Mary Ellen Mark

© 2014 Mary Ellen Mark

© 2014 Mary Ellen Mark

Photographer Mary Ellen Mark captured the lasting impact of congenital rubella in adults who didn’t have the benefit of a vaccine. The backstory: “During the 1960s and early 1970s, rubella outbreaks in New York had a huge impact on hundreds of pregnant women. Jimmie Carey and Damali Ashman, the subjects of these portraits, are two of the people who were born with congenital rubella syndrome, or CRS. Today, they live in a group home in the New York City area. Mary Ellen’s photographs show their challenges, their independence, and the loving, lifelong care provided by family.”

Sculptor Mauro Perucchetti: Don’t Be Afraid …

© 2014 Mauro Perucchetti

© 2014 Mauro Perucchetti

Vaccines as Love Serum, a resin sculpture by Mauro Perucchetti, blends two of the Italian sculptor’s most well-known works: Jelly Baby Family, which embodies family unity and multiculturalism, and Love Serum, that could “inoculate the whole world.” The artist’s vision: “Mauro hopes the toy-like appearance of his work will help bring a smile to children, and eliminate fear of syringes and needles, while also eliminating the skepticism some parents have about vaccines.”

German Painter Thomas Ganter: The “Everywoman” in Healthcare

© 2014 Thomas Ganter

© 2014 Thomas Ganter

Exquisitely detailed, this is not a photograph but a precisely rendered, near life-sized painting. “The Unknown Health Worker” by Thomas Ganter introduces the concept of “everywoman” in health. Its genesis: “The portrait is inspired by a photograph of a health worker in eastern Nepal, who was in the midst of climbing up and down steep hillsides in the Himalayas to reach all children with measles, rubella and polio vaccines. She carries the vaccines in the cold box slung on her shoulder.”

Collaborators Martha Rosler and Josh Neufeld: Jonas Salk’s Journey

© 2014 Martha Rosler and Josh Neufeld, 2015

© 2014 Martha Rosler and Josh Neufeld, 2015

A graphic depiction of the personal journey of Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed the inactivated polio vaccine, artists Martha Rosler and Josh Neufeld titled their work “Gift to the World.” The context: “When his vaccine was deemed a success in 1955, Salk famously said that it belonged to the people. ‘There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?’”

If you are attending TEDMED 2015, please visit The Art of Saving a Life and share your thoughts and reactions with other Delegates and on social media using the hashtag #TEDMED. The entire exhibit can be seen online, as well (www.theartofsavingalife.com), where our excerpted artists’ quotes appear in their entirety.


In Memoriam – Mary Ellen Mark
March 20, 1940 – May 25, 2015

Mary Ellen Mark achieved worldwide visibility through her numerous books, exhibitions and editorial magazine work. She is recognized as one of the most respected and influential photographers of her time. Her portrayals of Mother Teresa, Indian circuses, and brothels in Bombay were the product of many years of work in India.

A photo essay on runaway children in Seattle, Washington became the basis of the academy award nominated film STREETWISE, directed and photographed by her husband, Martin Bell. In 2014, she was given the Lifetime Achievement in Photography Award from George Eastman House.

Breaking Through to Create a Healthier World

TEDMED PartnersAs much of our community knows by now, TEDMED 2015 focuses on the powerful theme of “breaking through” – meaning not just once-in-a-lifetime “aha!” moments, but also critical everyday adventures … the steady, step-by-step progress that enables all of us to discover new knowledge, embrace new ideas and technologies, and ultimately create a healthier world.

To see inspiring examples of who is “breaking through” to new levels of innovation, passion and commitment in health and medicine, look no further than TEDMED’s Partners. Each of these 18 globally recognized leadership organizations is instrumental in helping TEDMED practice the art and science of breaking through:

For these game-changing organizations, “breaking through” to a healthier world is central to their mission, a daily priority that is pursued with great urgency. Each supports TEDMED with time, talent, resources – and, above all – thought leadership. Our Partners help make our annual gathering a highly charged, cutting-edge event that can provoke and inspire all of us to new heights of insight and action.

But don’t take our word for it! Savor the words and ideas that our Partners contributed to express their own style of “breaking through”…

We are #breakingthrough by showing how physicians and health teams can partner with patients to build #AHealthierNation. (American Medical Association; @AmerMedicalAssn)

With leaders like you, @RWJF is #breakingthrough barriers between doctors’ offices and where we live, learn, work, and play. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; @RWJF)

We are #breakingthrough to find the best science and technology to solve the greatest unmet needs of our time. (Johnson & Johnson Innovation; @JNJInnovation)

We are #breakingthrough complex health problems: promoting discovery, training leaders, transforming technologies. (Stanford Medicine; @StanfordMed)

We are #breakingthrough barriers to health so all people, in all places, in all aspects and stages of life, can live fully. #lifetothefullest (Abbott; @AbbottGlobal)

We are #breakingthrough barriers to vaccination, helping more kids get protected against killer diseases. (GlaxoSmithKline; @GSK)

We are #breakingthrough to better health experiences by connecting people, place and tech. (Steelcase Health; @SteelcaseHealth)

We are #breakingthrough by inspiring and engaging students in scientific exploration to become the next generation of innovators. (AbbVie; @abbvie)

We are #breakingthrough to create a healthier world by leveraging the extraordinary power of exponential technologies. (Novartis; @Novartis)

We are #breakingthrough to disrupt aging with @tedmed and @aarpinnovation. (AARP; @AARP)

We are working with hospitals and medical groups to find new ways of #breakingthrough silos that limit access to high-quality, affordable healthcare. (Blue Shield of California; @BlueShieldCA)

We are #breakingthrough barriers, developing software platforms for the future of synthetic biology and nanotechnology. (Autodesk; @autodesk)

We are #breakingthrough convention to engage doctors, patients, and brands in active conversations about healthier outcomes. (TBWA/World Health; @TBWAWorldHealth)

We are #breakingthrough status quo thinking to encourage fresh, alternative approaches to business and healthcare challenges. (Pfizer; @pfizer)

We are #breakingthrough barriers to access and care through awareness, resources and support as diverse as our patient populations. (Baxalta; @baxalta)

@BrighamWomens is #breakingthrough silos that divide physicians and researchers to translate research to advance patient care. (Brigham and Women’s Hospital; @BrighamWomens)

We are #breakingthrough to partner with startups to accelerate growth and commercialize innovative ideas. (GE Ventures; @GE_Ventures)

We are #breakingthrough old approaches to health communications with new ways to help people make more confident choices. (Digitas Health LifeBrands; @Digitas_Health)

TEDMED expresses its heartfelt gratitude and unending admiration for these outstanding organizations. Their example inspires us on a daily basis to pursue the quest for “breaking through.”

With their invaluable assistance, TEDMED will continue to provide our community with the best possible platform for multi-disciplinary dialogue, storytelling, imagination, inspiration and education!

Countering The Myth of the Lone Hero: Making Health a Shared Value

by Dr. Alonzo L. Plough
Vice President, Research-Evaluation-Learning, and Chief Science Officer
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Culture of HealthAmericans love the idea of the lone hero: the brilliant entrepreneur whose idea – generated in isolation – makes him a billionaire, the charismatic social change leader who transformed society through his perseverance and deft oratory skills. It’s the kind of myth that makes for a good movie and gives us hope that we too have the power to change the world. But it’s a myth nevertheless.

In the real world if you want to achieve something big – if you want to make a significant breakthrough – you need people on your side that will support you to forge a path and work with you to dismantle obstacles along the way. Steve Jobs needed Steve Wozniak. Martin Luther King Jr. needed Bayard Rustin. And they all needed countless others, most of whose names we’ll never know.

Last year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – working together with our partners across the country – developed a bold new vision. It’s a vision of a future where a Culture of Health has taken a firm hold and where everyone in our diverse society has the realistic hope and ample opportunities to live a healthy life. Period.

We spend $3 trillion a year on health care in this country – nearly 18 percent of our GDP, the highest percentage in the world. But all that spending is not buying us better health as a society. Compared to other high-income countries, Americans today live shorter, sicker lives. Over one-third of American children are overweight or obese, meaning they have a real chance of becoming the first generation to live sicker and die younger than their parents. Some of those kids – too many – don’t feel safe doing something as simple and as healthy as walking to school. Nearly one-fifth of all Americans live in neighborhoods with high rates of crime and pollution, inadequate housing, and limited access to nutritious food and job opportunities.

To translate the big vision of a Culture of Health into measurable outcomes and to catalyze action, my colleagues and I worked with the RAND Corporation to develop a Culture of Health Action Framework. This Framework – refined with input from thousands of stakeholders – provides entry points for a social movement that reflects the goals and values of our diverse country.

A single burning question drove all of us who worked on the Framework: “What is holding us back?” What became abundantly clear is that this country is not addressing the social, economic, physical, and environmental factors of health and wellbeing. For too long we have attempted to improve health by focusing and spending too much on health care. And for too long too many have looked solely to those who work in health care to generate the solutions that impact every one of our lives.

That just won’t get us where we need to go.

We’re confident that the surest path to a Culture of Health is to make it clear that we all need to be in this together. That health must be a shared value that guides all of our public and private decision-making. In a Culture of Health, health care professionals work as partners with their patients, and care is as much about promoting health as treating illness. Business leaders know that employee and community wellbeing boosts the bottom line. Everyone recognizes that things like where we live, how we work, the safety of our surroundings, and the strength and resilience of our families and communities dictates whether we have the ability to pursue health. People all across America – supported by government and private industry – make healthier choices and together foster more equitable communities that make those individual healthy choices possible and plausible.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is at TEDMED because we know you get it. You are leaders and collaborators and pioneers who push boundaries. You’re the people who are unafraid of big ideas that break through the status quo. We need you to lead the way to build that healthy reality.

How will you encourage more of us to see how our health affects others – and vice versa? How will you help more people speak up about the need for our public institutions and private companies and organizations to prioritize health? How will we bring new partners to the table that did not even know a seat and a role was waiting for them? How can we all help each other feel like each of us has a stake in this Culture of Health?

The vision for a Culture of Health does not belong to any one group or person. A lone hero will not get us to where we need to be. We all will do it together.

Before you head to TEDMED, take a look at the Action Framework. We’re building a dynamic online public dialogue that will culminate during the event, Nov. 18-20. For those of you joining us in Palm Springs, we hope you’ll tell us what you think in person. Most importantly, decide – and then tell the world – how you will be a part of building a Culture of Health.

It’s time to make this happen.

TEDMED 2015 Hive Companies Create Serious Style that Improves Health & Quality of Life


Sneakers, specially designed with the Open Style Lab platform.

Tattoos and stylish clothing are on the agenda at TEDMED next month in ways that are anything but frivolous. Neural Interaction Lab creates “epidural electronics” that function as flexible electronic sensors – think temporary tattoos – that can comfortably track your biometrics, Another group, Open Style Lab, offers a platform for people with disabilities to collaborate with engineers, designers and occupational therapists to create functional and fashionable apparel that meets their unique needs.

Open Style Lab founder and Executive Director Grace Teo dreamt, in different stages of her life, of careers in fashion and science. Earning her PhD in medical engineering and medical physics at Harvard/MIT put her to work in hospital environments. There she encountered a woman with multiple sclerosis whose stories about her difficulties accomplishing even the most mundane and routine tasks in her life gave Grace the idea to combine her passions by making beauty accessible to all people.

Grace recounts how, in her desire to solve “serious problems,” she asked the woman what she missed most about being healthy. She answered by describing her difficulty, that morning, of dressing independently. This need, “so starkly basic and intimate” usually goes unnoticed, Grace explained, adding that “as a child, I had always wanted to be a wardrobe designer, so I jumped at this opportunity to combine my medical engineering training and interest in creating beauty!”

Open Style Labs

The “Rayn Jacket” from Open Style Labs has a magnetic pouch that, when closed, is a pocket.

Grace notes that she is “#BreakingThrough assumptions about disability and beauty by bringing to life the clothing dreams of people with disabilities.” Her goal is to overcome the lack of awareness of the functional shortcomings clothing poses for the disabled and the lack of strong fashion industry presence to meet this need. “We are focused on making full use of every opportunity to grow a community of partners, manufacturers and retailers with whom we can change the fashion landscape to cater to people of all abilities,” she says.

Collaboration is also baked into the culture at Neural Interaction Lab, where Todd Coleman leads a research group developing wireless tattoo technology that transmits medical data. Spanning the disciplines of medical electronics, machine learning, and public health, the team creates multi-functional, flexible bio-electronics that provide information for use by both patients and clinical decision-makers. Todd tells us that he is “#BreakingThrough traditional boundaries by identifying important medical problems that inherently require different perspectives and bringing people from different backgrounds to work together with a singular focus on attacking these problems in a manner that can make sustainable change.”

Neural Interaction Lab

Neural Interaction Lab’s temporary tattoo, a wearable patch of tiny circuits, sensors, and wireless transmitters.

The tattoo-as-medical-device concept evolved gradually, Todd says, as he worked at the intersection of engineering and medicine. Identifying an “unmet need” for less obtrusive sensor technology, Todd began to understand that, as he puts it, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” Technology will only work if people are willing to use, or in this case, wear it. A key insight was that technologies and algorithms needed to be developed “in lock-step with trusted community engagement, with an eagerness to understand context and by partnering with other organizations focused upon empowerment.” Underlying the work of Neural Interaction Labs is a contextual and social awareness of solutions’ users and what their unique challenges or opportunities for adoption may be. These tattoos may be life-altering, it turns out!

Radical Acceptance: The Benefits of Meeting People Where They’re At

Holly Morris

Filmmaker Holly Morris tells “estro-charged” stories from around the world. “Babushkas of Chernobyl” refused to be displaced after the nuclear disaster.

What if the best way to solve a problem is to find acceptance that it may not need to be “solved” at all? For a few of the speakers we’ll be hearing from at TEDMED 2015, their “breaking through” experience took the form of radical acceptance, an active decision to stay in a situation or moment without struggling to fix or change it – even when doing so meant defiance of all that we “know” needs to happen.

In the days before father died from Alzheimer’s, Karen Stobbe – an actress and writer – was struck by the similarities between her caregiving responsibilities and improvisational acting, an insight that led her to develop trainings for dementia caregivers based on the rules of improv. Together with her husband, actor and improviser Mondy Carter, Karen wrote and co-starred in the show, “Sometimes You Gotta Laugh,” an educational and entertaining take on Alzheimer’s disease, caregiving, humor and stress.

Now caring for her mother (who also has Alzheimer’s), Karen firmly believes that creative use of improv techniques to manage dementia symptoms improves the quality of life for both the patient and caregiver. “I am breaking through to people with dementia by entering into their world and not expecting or wanting them to try and join me in mine,” she says. Karen and Mondy will share their work in our Mind Matters session.

A parallel theme underlies a new documentary by filmmaker and TEDMED speaker Holly Morris, called The Babushkas of Chernobyl. In the film, Holly visits an isolated rural community of 230 people (mostly women in their 70s and 80s) who – despite governmental mandates and strong medical advisories against living in “the most contaminated place on earth” – have continued to make their homes in Ukraine’s Exclusion Zone.

The film features Hanna, who returned with her family to their home just three months after the Chernobyl nuclear explosion. When government officials objected to her family’s return to the land, she told them, “Shoot us and dig the grave; otherwise we’re staying.”

What the rest of the world had deemed toxic and uninhabitable was home in the deepest sense to these men and women – and now, almost 30 years later – still is. Many have now outlived their old neighbors who had fled the area and faced the strains of dislocation that come with living as refugees.

Some of the women Holly interviewed had also lived through the “massive genocide-by-famine that Soviet leader Joseph Stalin instigated in order to subjugate Ukraine and move peasant farmers onto state farming collectives or into factories,” she wrote in More Magazine. “Having survived all that, the babushkas were not inclined to cut and run after the Chernobyl explosion created invisible threats in the air, soil and water. Hanna, who as an infant was nearly eaten by her family during the Holodomor, says it succinctly: ‘Starvation is what scares me. Not radiation.’”

In her talk, featured in our final session, Out There, Holly will share her experiences investigating the healing power of home, even when the motherland is poisonous – a view that has profound implications for today’s refugee crisis, as well as other political and natural disasters.

Unconventional Collaborations for Farming Solutions to Solve Global Hunger

TEDMED 2015 - Food Fix Session

Exacerbated by poverty and climate change, food insecurity and hunger are significant threats on a global scale. Malnourishment is not limited to the developing world, though of course it’s a huge problem there since under-resourced farmers frequently fall victim to food price spikes and inequity in the food system. However (though counterintuitive), the truth is that malnourishment is also a pressing issue in the U.S. and much of the developed world, as well. There, dietary imbalances and consumption of cheaper and more widely available foods that are calorie-dense but nutrient-poor are major factors. Domestically and globally, healthy and nutritious food options are becoming a luxury that many cannot afford.

At TEDMED 2015, we’ll hear several talks from the stage that will share compelling (and wildly different) strategies to address hunger, and our Hive Innovators also offer opportunities to meet and network with people tackling the issue. Some of these, introduced below, are noteworthy for the surprising collaborations they propose, as each offers a fresh way to reshape food production technologies (aka, farming). Their goal: to create a global agriculture system that can produce enough food to meet demand while also achieving ecological balance and sustainability.

Sharing the stage at the Food Fix session are University of California plant geneticists Pamela Roland and Raoul Adamchak, who manage the organic farm on campus. When it comes to genetic engineering vs. organic farming, the tendency is to pit one against the other. Yet, the couple (yes, they’re married!) posits that both approaches can contribute to the same, sustainable solution. Combining the best practices of seed technologies and organic farming is the most effective way to achieve a healthy and ecologically balanced agriculture, they believe.

The main challenges Pamela and Raoul have set out to solve include the negative impact of fertilizers and pesticides on the environment, farming practices that contribute to soil erosion, and unequal access to technology and inputs needed to increase yield amongst the world’s poorest farmers. The current pace of progress is insufficient, Pamela tells us, given predictions that the world’s population will increase by 3 billion in the next 50 years, while climate change will wreak yet more havoc for farmers. “We need to redouble our efforts to solve existing problems, feed more people, reduce CO2, NO, and methane emissions from agriculture, and utilize new technologies to address drought, flooding, salinity, and temperature extremes,” she says.

This same urgency to minimize global food insecurity propels the MIT Media Open Agriculture (OpenAG) Initiative, one of our TEDMED Hive companies for 2015. On a mission to create healthier, more engaging and more inventive food systems, OpenAG is at work on the first open-source agricultural technology research lab, the goals of which include enabling and promoting transparency while also networking experimentation, education and local production.

OpenAg Lab is “breaking through traditional agriculture by building collaborative tools to open technology platforms for the exploration of future food systems,” says principal scientist Caleb Harper (@calebgrowsfood). The word Caleb chooses to describe his team is “anti-disciplinary”: “We don’t focus on traditional disciplinary boundaries,” he says. “We’re more interested in figuring out the problem and who can help solve that problem. We answer the question ‘how does an electrical engineer become part of a food solution?’ We’re using a lot of different kinds of brains. While some of my team might not have horticultural knowledge, they have a lot of knowledge that the horticulturalists don’t have. Putting those two together is what has made it so powerful.”

At present Caleb says the group’s most inventive work involves “creating boxes at different sizes that create climates inside.” Plants are grown there, with sensors recording every minute detail of climate. “When the plant is harvested I know what biologic or plant-based expression occurred, which includes things like flavor, color, texture. I also know the environment that created it because I’ve been sensing it,” he explains. This essentially creates what he calls “a digital recipe” for the plant, which would produce identical results anywhere that the environmental conditions are replicated. “I can then email this digital recipe from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Ghana, and Ghana would be in immediate production of the exact same thing with the exact same quality. The big disruption is no longer shipping food, but sending information about food that creates it on the other side. Agriculture becomes constant, predictable, and networked – which it has never been.”

Caleb’s professional background previously focused on architecture and engineering, designing data centers, which are “controlled environments for computers,” he says. “I was also designing hospitals and was a specialist in surgical theatre, which is a controlled environment for people. So I came up with that idea and brought it home to the lab and started creating a prototype. I come from Texas, where my family was in grocery and agriculture production, so I combined my background in that with what I’m doing professionally.”

TEDMED Live: Aiming to Inspire Discussion to Shape Humanity’s Health

TEDMED Live Streaming

Sharing thoughts about the TEDMED Live Streaming experience last year in Italy.

As we close in on our exciting, upcoming event – what promises to be an extraordinary experience – one key goal remains front and center. We are here to accelerate the pace of innovation in health and medicine worldwide. It’s the reason we offer TEDMED Live Streaming, an online simulcast of the entire program, direct from our stage, in high-definition video. Through generous support from our Partners we are able to provide global access, live and on demand, to people around the world who are at work (constantly) shaping healthcare from the front lines of care delivery.

TEDMED Live is a unique experience and we invite you to share it with us. We believe the thoughts, insights and ideas shared from our stage are too important to be confined to those who attend our program in person. Central to our mission is convening and sharing in a global conversation about what is new and important in health and medicine – and, as we’ve done in previous years, we invite people to gather together and participate in an extended discussion with colleagues, neighbors, co-workers, friends and relatives around the world.

TEDMED Live: What You Need to Know

Interested? Here are some important details about the TEDMED Live experience:

Our TEDMED program content has been carefully curated to be inspiring and provocative to spark important discussions about the future of humanity’s health.

What is TEDMED Live? A live broadcast of the eight sessions from the TEDMED stage in Palm Springs, CA, each lasting approximately 90 minutes and comprising between five and seven talks on themes important to health and medicine. TEDMED Live affiliates can tune in to watch these sessions online at their convenience, both live and on demand.

Because programming is designed to spark dialogue and interaction across siloed professions, we encourage TEDMED Live Affiliates to convene groups for a collective viewing experience. Our programming can be viewed on a personal device but we encourage affiliates to view TEDMED Live in a group, which makes for a much more powerful experience. Whether it’s a handful of people watching sessions during lunch and dinner breaks or a crowd of thousands in a campus auditorium, we applaud our Affiliates’ efforts to participate in important conversation.

Who’s on board already: We’ve already received a steady stream of hundreds of TEDMED Live applications – it’s not too late to join us! Hundreds of organizations – from the American University of Beirut to Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health to the St. Louis Public Library – have signed up. Our Partners’ support allows us to offer free access to hospitals, libraries, medical schools, government agencies and non-profits that meet certain criteria; paid access is available to others, depending on your organization’s size.

We’ve seen some brilliant participation in years past. Below are photos from a few of the 147 countries worldwide (200,000+ people) who tuned in last year. We invite you to take inspiration from these and others who have gone above and beyond to catalyze discussion, inspire colleagues and push understanding at their organizations to spread the TEDMED mission globally.

Usage guidelines: When planning your event, it is vital to the TEDMED Live mission and organizational success that the guidelines for use are followed to maintain the program’s integrity. Click here to see our guidelines about how our programming can and cannot be used.

Click here to apply to stream TEDMED Live.

TEDMED Live - Italy


TEDMED Live - Italy


TEDMED Live - Egypt


TEDMED Live - Egypt


TEDMED Live - Texas

U.S. (Texas)


Inside Out and Upside Down: 3 Hive Companies that Shatter Convention in Solving Key Healthcare Challenges

Noora Health

In India, Noora Health is teaching family members to care for loved ones and achieving dramatic reductions in hospital readmissions.

As we all know, healthcare is full of complexity and troubling issues that seem to have no answer. Sometimes, approaching a project from wildly new angles or with fresh insight from industry outsiders results in surprisingly simple solution. That’s exactly what these three Hive 2015 companies are doing. Each tackle very different problems – traumatic brain injury, health insurance, and hospital readmission – with exciting and unconventional approaches.


The complexities of health insurance are, at best, frustrating even to healthy people with vast resources–let alone those who face medical, emotional, practical and/or financial challenges. Gravie is a health insurance marketplace that helps people buy and manage their own health insurance, and offers a seemingly simple and straightforward solution for dealing with the minor – and sometimes major – annoyances in our healthcare system.

What’s groundbreaking about the concept is that customers can use Gravie as their one-stop-shop for all healthcare needs. First, the platform provides a marketplace to help individuals and families understand the options in simple terms and then buy what they need; Gravie offers both private market and public exchange options. Thereafter, users can manage their payments (including employer contributions, government subsidies and their own money) and deal with all things health-related in one single place.

Though Gravie’s very structure shatters many of the conventions regarding health insurance, the company’s founders “don’t think our idea is particularly inventive,” says Abir Sen, CEO. “In fact,” says Abir, “we find it incredible that someone else didn’t come up with it years ago. In 2015, we are still stuck in the archaic employer-sponsored health insurance system that evolved around the time the Korean War was ending.” No single “aha moment” was involved in creating Gravie, Abir says, noting that instead the group merely applied “very basic logic to how we can make the health insurance system better for consumers.”


Noora Health

Noora Health is making an impact on hospital readmission rates in India, where in comparison to the US the difficulties of healthcare delivery are magnified many times over. The company uses the principles of human-centered design to turn hospital hallways and waiting rooms into classrooms. Here, disenfranchised friends and family members can learn how to give their loved ones the care they need to continue healing, get healthy and stay healthy after discharge from the hospital.

“The health system is failing globally, as a select few are able to access and afford the modern status quo of healthcare,” Shahed Alam, a Co-Founder and the company’s Chief Strategy Officer explains, noting that Noora sees “untapped potential” for healthcare in patients and families themselves. “Currently, patients and their families are given home-care instructions in a rushed discharge synopsis, often not in their native language,” he says. Not only are the existing patient education programs ineffective but they are “seen as expensive, time consuming and do not address the perceived more ‘acute’ or pressing bedside issues,” Shahed explains. Noora prepares family caregivers to join the care provider team, integrating them into the formal healthcare system. Shahed continues, “We take complicated and disjointed medical information and repackage it in such a way that it is interesting, engaging and the lessons stick. Part of our innovation’s beauty lies in its simplicity – it begs the question, why isn’t this the status quo?”



A spinoff from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, MindMaze combines virtual reality with state-of-the-art brain imaging technologies to help people with traumatic brain injury transcend disability and live more complete and satisfying lives. “Coming from an engineering background, it made a strong impression when I came across the standard of care in neurorehabilitation, which has been stagnant for the last few decades with debilitating implications for patients,” says Tej Tadi. Founder of MindMaze and an electrical engineer by training, Tej realized that “something as simple as a mirror trick using virtual reality seemed to immediately improve patient outcomes.” That was the starting point for a company that now develops hardware and software to enhance a damaged brain’s ability to learn and adapt. Tej tells us that MindMaze technology is already being used to help heal those who’ve suffered from stroke and brain damage.

When asked to come up with a word that describes his company, he offered three: diverse, creative and multidisciplinary. As for the future of this field, Tej said that “the novel amalgam of virtual & augmented reality, brain imaging and neuroscience will enable a whole new generation of platforms to bring intuitive interfaces into every aspect of our daily lives.”


Data-Driven Innovation to Improve Outcomes in Families, for Hospital Patients, and Worldwide


Excellent healthcare treats each person as a unique individual; but the best way to learn the most effective treatment for each unique situation is through analysis of massive amounts of data – data about many individuals’ treatment – which improves our healthcare system on the whole.

Among this year’s collection of innovative Hive companies are three using data to craft a better future for individuals everywhere. Their tools support frustrated parents seeking treatment for developmentally disabled children, provide potentially life-saving insights to doctors on the front lines of critical care, and deliver valuable performance metrics to sharpen the efficacy of public health programs a world away.

Cognoa (@CognoaParents) Helps Parents Help Their Kids

The problem: Time is of the essence for a parent who suspects a child may have autism, a developmental delay, or some other type of neurological challenge – yet most face enormous obstacles getting the “system” to respond to their concerns. While the effectiveness of early intervention has been widely demonstrated, valuable time is often lost waiting for a diagnosis and interventions.

The solution: Cognoa has created a mobile app that uses machine learning to help parents evaluate whether their child’s social, language and communication development is on track – and to get the right help as soon as possible when it isn’t. Using the Cognoa platform, a parent answers questions and uploads videos of the child’s behavior. The app identifies if the child is at risk for development delay and/or autism and delivers a personalized report that parents can share with their doctor, identifying areas where the child is doing well and others where intervention is needed.

The breakthrough: “Cognoa originated from deep investigations into how the current healthcare system detects, diagnoses, and treats developmental delay in children,” explains Dennis Wall, scientific founder and developer of Cognoa’s proprietary child behavior assessments and data science. Citing 18-month long waiting lists, the fact that some children don’t receive a diagnosis of autism until they are almost five, and that many families must “endure self-managed navigation through an overly complex healthcare ecosystem,” Dennis says it isn’t acceptable to let children go “without therapeutic intervention during the time windows [when] they need it most.”

Cognoa was built to use the “lens of machine learning to create algorithms that can cut through the complexity and mobilize the exchange of information between parents and clinicians,” Dennis says, noting that the concept coalesced when it became clear that “these algorithms place the power of knowledge into the hands of the caregivers and enable action that helps them help their child in minutes instead of months.”

Medical Informatics Corp (@MedicalInfoCorp) Helps Doctors Save Patients’ Lives

The problem: Medical Informatics Corp (MIC) saw a need to “radically rethink” the way that patients are monitored within critical care environments. The current system places each ICU patient on a physiologic monitor, which – says Craig Rusin, co-founder and CTO at Medical Informatics – “is a dedicated piece of hardware that measures vital signs such as ECG, blood pressure, heart rate, etc.” This model of patient innovation typically requires the development and sales of new hardware. “That’s like buying a separate computer for every program that you want to run,” Craig says, adding that “it’s expensive, un-scalable, and it’s driving up health care costs.”

The solution: Seeing “a huge untapped potential in the data that is being collected by existing medical equipment,” MIC transforms existing clinical data streams into patient-specific analytics in real time. “Each monitoring application addresses a specific clinical question and can be enabled on a patient-by-patient basis,” Craig explains. The software-based applications can be developed five times faster and for just 10% of the cost of hardware-based solutions, creating what he calls a “fundamental shift in the economics of patient monitoring applications.”

The breakthrough: Algorithms that may not be economically feasible as a single hardware-based monitor become economically viable as a software-based virtual monitor. Considered a thought leader and architect of change in predictive and prescriptive clinical analytics, Craig and his colleagues are laying a foundation for real-time clinical decision support applications within Hospital IT infrastructure.

“At MIC, our people are quirky, passionate, and over-qualified,” Craig shares. “These traits enable us to navigate the often-tricky world of healthcare technology innovation. Everyone on our team shares the same goal: building software to empower health care teams to save lives.”

BroadReach Healthcare (@Broadreachinfo) Improves Access to Healthcare on a Global Scale

The problem: According to BroadReach founding partner John Sargent, there has long been a “profound divide between the application of big data in developed markets—where some believe governments and companies know too much—and in developing countries where all agree they know too little to provide life-enhancing services.” Fragmented and incomplete, the available data often overlooked the impacts of key metrics, including the social determinants of health.

The solution: BroadReach provides a powerful analytic platform with predictive modeling and data visualization tools that can be used to craft healthcare policy and programs based on performance, sustainability and accountability. Combining real-time data collection; powerful and accessible tools for data integration, analysis and visualization; and strategic consulting and operational support, BroadReach analytics drive programming that improves outcomes quickly and effectively.

The breakthrough: The “pragmatic visionaries” at BroadReach Analytics now work closely with governments, multinational health organizations, major donors and life science companies worldwide to integrate social, economic and health data for insights to maximize impact by improving access to quality healthcare in a sustainable way.