Placing Science in Context for our Future Health Leaders: Action Inspired by the Great Challenges Program

We’re on a mission to better understand the impact that the Great Challenges Program and the TEDMED community are making in creating a healthier world. For the past 18 months, we’ve convened experts via Google Hangout for unbiased and broadly inclusive discussions on 20 of the thorniest issues in health and medicine today. Diverse subject matter experts share their perspectives and help the TEDMED community dive deeper into key barriers to success for each Challenge. TEDMED believes that when the world achieves a broad-based understanding of any given Challenge, it will then be in a better position to take truly effective action.

After a year and a half, we wanted to know: what impact has our Great Challenges Program had on you? How have these discussions prompted truly effective action from you or within your community? What is your Great Challenges story? We asked – and you answered.

As we read inspiring stories shared by the community, we also want to share them with you. This blog post is the first of a series of Great Challenge successes, so if you have not shared your story – now is the time.

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One of the most inspiring stories we heard was from Jodie Deinhammer, an Anatomy and Physiology high-school teacher at Coppell Independent School District, right outside of Dallas, Texas. Jodie teaches 150 juniors and seniors, and just last year, was Region 10 Secondary Teacher of the Year. From what we heard of Jodie’s story, the TEDMED team certainly wishes we had a teacher like her when we were in high school.

That’s because the Great Challenges Program has helped Jodie innovate in the classroom in ways that inspire her students to place health issues in context – the students don’t just learn about body parts; they focus on the global health system and ways in which we can all work together to shape a healthier world. And, the Program and the positive response from her students have even prompted Jodie to expand the reach of her classroom: two of her courses are available on the iTunes U app, where they have soared into the Top 10 rankings.

Last year, Jodie saw a tweet about one of our Great Challenges online events that focused on reducing childhood obesity. As a class her students watched that session and actively participated online. The students were so energized by the direct access to the expert participants who answered their questions, that they’ve become some of our most active community members. Of particular interest are the obesity and prevention challenges, which relate most closely to their classroom studies. Jodie reports that, “The big picture that we’re creating through the course is directly related to what they’ve watched and learned through the Great Challenges Program.”

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This year, in the first semester, the students have been looking at prevention and obesity, and based on what they’ve learned from the Great Challenges program and in class, have come up with one potential solution to address these large-scale issues: they built a six-week online class to help adults improve their overall health. As part of this online class, the students have come up one challenge per week: during the first week, the online class focuses on giving up a bad habit; during the second, it encourages users to get moving…you get the idea. The students will soon begin using it as part of a health challenge for the school’s teachers.

Next, the students move on to focus on another Great Challenge for the upcoming semester. They’ll tackle “the impact of poverty on health,” working on a program to provide technologies to developing countries in partnership with several global organizations.

This story is an incredible example of the ways in which the Great Challenges Program can empower participants to actively engage in improving their health and that of the world at large. We’re thrilled to see the Program putting science in a real-life context and helping to train the health movers and shakers of the future. And kudos to Jodie for her innovation in the classroom!

Now, it’s your turn – what’s your Great Challenges story? How has our program impacted your work or the way you live your life? Shoot us a note at challenges@tedmed.com. We can’t wait to hear from you.