Reflections on Ground Covered at Spotlight Health, Aspen ideas Festival

Peggy Clark hosted Aspen Institute's Ideas Festival focusing on health where I moderated panels and interviewed a number experts on philanthropy, education, sustainability and gender equality.

Peggy Clark hosted Aspen Institute's Ideas Festival focusing on health where I moderated panels and interviewed a number experts on philanthropy, education, sustainability and gender equality.

FROM SUNRISE SESSIONS AT MAROON BELLS where Walton Family Foundation Chair Carrie Walton Penner, reminded us of the connections between the natural world — so majestically present there in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains — and our own personal mental and physical health. 

Dr. Helen Fisher interviewed at Aspen Ideas Festival Spotlight Health. 

Dr. Helen Fisher interviewed at Aspen Ideas Festival Spotlight Health. 

TO SUNDOWN CONVERSATION AT BELLY UP BAR where Dr. Helen Fisher — author of “Anatomy of Love” and many other books on the subject of love, sex and the brain — kept our attention with new data about personality types-based brain scans, millennial sex lives (they have less than any other generation) and the new marriage paradigm (younger men/older women — think Macron as the new and Trump as the old).

The Spotlight Health forum covered a lot of ground in search of common ground on new challenges to reproductive justice and human rights (that are clearly not part of the proposed Senate health care bill). The forum welcomed 1,000 physicians, scientists, activists and frontline leaders, many facing rollbacks on government-sponsored medical research, climate action and other policies, to share ideas and solutions. 

We've all heard the surprising stat that the US spends more on health care than any other developed nation and yet has one of the lowest scores in terms of positive outcomes. That will only get worse as the climate crisis grows with direct implications for our personal health (increases in lung disease, asthma, psychological trauma) the depletion of healthy water, critical disruptions in ocean and river ecosystems, and all natural resources necessary for personal health and sustaining life.

Yes, a lot of what I learned and what we heard was scary.

But if we are going to continue to fight and to advocate for compassionate health care policies, better business practices for employee health, and equal access for the most vulnerable and marginalized populations, we have to start with being informed.

Did you know 10,000 people turn 65 every day?

One estimate has it that in the next year alone, more than 2 million caregivers will be needed to care for the aging Baby Boomer generation. Founder and CEO Sheila Marcelo talked to me about how we might build a caregiving infrastructure that can sustain us all.  Ai-Jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, also spoke eloquently about the role of caregivers in our society and the need for us to better recognize the work that they do. “Like the air we breathe," she said, "caregiving work is invisible, yet it’s all around us and so essential to all of our lives. …Making it a visible part of our economy will require a shift in culture, one that's long overdue.”

 Climate change is already affecting our rivers and oceans.

The watershed of the great Mississippi River stretches from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the Allegheny Mountains in the east. Communities rely on the river for drinking water; farmers in the watershed produce 92 percent of the nation’s agricultural exports; and the river and its wildlife are important to recreation and ecology. Carrie Walton Penner of the Walton Family Foundation talked to me about promising new practices that help increase soil health, improve water quality and sustain farmer incomes.

One in five American women will utilize Planned Parenthood for health care over the course of their lives.
The vast majority of federal money that Planned Parenthood (which turned 100 in October) receives goes toward preventive health care, birth control, pregnancy tests and other women's health services. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, told me that PP has 650 affiliate health centers across the nation — 62% of facilities offer same-day appointments and 78% offer weekend and evening appointments for women who have a hard time getting time off work or accessing child care.

Unwanted teen pregnancies and abortions are at the lowest levels ever in the US.

Yet Trumpcare would eliminate access to birth control and place even more limitations on a woman’s right to choose to end an unintended pregnancy. It’s happened already in the Deep South…although abortion is a constitutionally guaranteed right (at least for now we have Roe v. Wade), it is regularly denied to the poor and women of color through policies and recent laws that make it all but impossible. Meeting Dr. Willie Parker who courageously provides abortions to those women seeking them in rural Alabama and Georgia was a highlight of the Forum for me.

In our interview, he told me he’s not allowed to use anesthesia for abortions so he uses “verbacaine” instead — talking constantly about a woman’s favorite subjects to keep her as comfortable and distracted as possible. Dr. Parker is a man of faith and principles who believes that women must have the right to control what happens to their bodies.

And isn’t that why it’s absurd that 13 white men went into a room and drafted the national health care bill without one woman’s voice or input?  Little wonder that in a 45-minute interview at the forum, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price never mentioned women and yet, we will be the most negatively impacted if this bill passes.

A big shout-out of gratitude to the curator, host and founder of Spotlight Health, my good friend, Peggy Clark, and her amazing team: Katie Drasser, Gina Rogari and the whole Aspen team.

It was a privilege to be there and to participate in these important conversations, especially at this time. That’s why I’m writing this and asking you join me in fighting back to secure what is a universal right and recognized as such in every other democratic country — as well as the right to equality and quality health care.

Call your congressmen. Get engaged.  Or we may be facing another dark time of dangerous and illegal backstreet abortions and many more unwanted pregnancies, as well as a decline in the delivery of life saving cancer testing and treatments…all of which characterized my youth and I don’t want that for my daughters or granddaughters.

At the end of my half-hour conversation with Cecile Richards on Facebook Live, crammed with facts about Planned Parenthood and why it's so important for all of us to stand up against efforts to defund, I referenced her mother, the great Ann Richards, a friend and a woman I admired so deeply (watch video). 

Gov Richards, when asked what she would have done differently if she had known she would be one-term governor, famously said, “I would have raised more hell!”

Yes, It's time for all of us to raise more hell! And let our elected leaders hear it.

Feeling fired up, 

— Pat