Spotlight Health returns to the Aspen Institute on June 22, 2017, as the opening segment of the annual Aspen Ideas Festival. The tradition of deep dives along the cutting edge of health and medicine continues for its fourth year, presented as always through a global lens. Stimulating and often provocative, Spotlight Health features some of the world’s leading doers and thinkers – the icons and the up-and-comers of our time.
A mix of formats, including keynotes, one-on-one interviews, interactive sessions, and panel discussions foster learning and encourage informal conversations with speakers. There are lessons from innovators working around the world, art displays that echo the themes of the conference, and exercise breaks to keep the body and mind sharp. Set in a verdant mountain valley, cosmopolitan Aspen, Colorado, is a spectacular gathering place in which health can be seen from all its many angles.
Science is making rapid strides in its understanding of the structure and function of the brain. Imaging technologies reveal how the brain develops and ages, why we need love, and what makes loneliness so damaging. The ability to map signaling pathways gives us a picture of addiction, explains why traumatic experiences linger, and shows how we benefit from exposure to nature. Knowledge of human behavior at the neural level also makes explicit the connection between mental and physical health, offers insights about resilience, and informs new approaches in the classroom. The science of the brain and the wonders of the mind give new meaning to the word "awesome."
We live in an age when improbable advances are actually occurring, and what once seemed impossible now appears achievable. Vice President Joe Biden's pursuit of a cancer cure is not the only moonshot out there. Wild and brave entrepreneurs and scientists are pushing boldly forward with innovations that can lift up everyone, wherever they live. With the right commitments, we can create a planet without AIDS, eliminate maternal mortality, vanquish pandemics and provide health coverage for all. At this moment in time, we are also seeing artificial intelligence and precision medicine leapfrog forward, with visionaries lighting the way.
Good health is one of the greatest gifts of a vigorous, fulfilling life, but clinical care alone cannot produce it. We also need to build bridges across disciplines, socioeconomic status, geographic boundaries, and ideologies; link folks working on the ground to top-down governmental and NGO structures; and craft public policies that strengthen housing, education, security, and employment. Quelling violence, correcting environmental hazards, promoting equity, breaking through social isolation, and even celebrating the arts are other health-building tools. To realize our full human potential, the mission and agenda of many fields are increasingly converging on health.
As a species, we do not walk alone. In the journey from birth to death, we depend on others to nurture our young, heal what ails us, and ease our way out of the world. We're at an inflection point in determining what care will look like, how it will be delivered, and by whom. But we already know that we'll need healers who value personal touch as much as they do science, caregivers who are adequately trained and compensated, and technology that is supportive, but not dehumanizing. How we tend to others at their most vulnerable moments speaks volumes about our humanity.
Everyone, it seems, has a point of view. Bench scientists and clinicians, health providers and patient activists, policymakers and advocates, folks working at the local, national and international levels -- all with their own ideas about what it takes to build a healthier world. The push and pull of different disciplines and perspectives can drive creativity and generate innovative solutions, but only when all of the players are as willing to listen as they are to talk. That's not happening often enough these days, but it is one of the great assets of Spotlight Health, where open-minded dialogue is the coin of the realm.
Laboratory discoveries, cutting-edge technology and clinical advances are converging to bring better medicine to more people on an unparalleled scale. We're conquering killer diseases, figuring out how people can live longer than at any other time in history, replacing deteriorating body parts with greater ease, learning how the brain really works, and bringing disciplines together to solve problems collectively. Find out what's new and what's hot in health and medicine at Med School sessions that are closely tied into Spotlight Health's other rich offerings.
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