Health Care

Summer at Aspen: Spotlight Health

September 1, 2016  • IDEAS: the Magazine of the Aspen Institute

“Addiction is not a character flaw or a moral failing. It’s a chronic illness, and we have to treat it with skill, urgency, and compassion.”—US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy


“We’ve had a number of crises: Ebola, Zika, 50,000 children came across the border into the care of HHS. But we need dialogue on the ACA—because that conversation isn’t being had in Washington.”—HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell


“In Maine, we have the food-sovereignty movement. So if you want to make some jam in your kitchen and then sell it in front of your house, you shouldn’t be
hauled to jail.”
—US Representative Chellie Pingree


Coming Out in the SpotlightOlympic champion and transgender activist Caitlyn Jenner on her mental-health challenges while finding and embracing her identity.

“I did everything to run away from being transgender. That worked for me for many years, but it never went away. Every story in our community is different. We have come a long way, physically, to be able to go from one sex to another. The bigger problem is the psychological side of this. The internet changed the game. When I was a kid, I was alone. Under the age of 21, 41 percent of all trans people attempt suicide. The mental health of the trans community is the most difficult. I struggled with it all my life, but I had my ways of diversion: the Olympic games, a tremendous family. But I had a double life. For the last two years before I decided to transition, my life was absolute hell. There was only one time where I ever contemplated suicide. It was my low point, but it was the beginning of a turning point. If the worst thing in my life is that I’m trans, I can handle it.”


My Superhuman Experience

Ellie Wheeler, founder of the Superhero Project, on why it is important to realize that every single person is vastly complicated with a unique human experience.

“The hardest parts of life can be the most empowering. The first thing you probably noticed about me was my wheelchair. I don’t blame you; we are conditioned to notice differences. And I am different. However, I am not just a wheelchair, and I am not just an illness. I am so much more. Most of all, I am a fighter, and I am proud of the way I fight. No matter what your battles are, we have two choices in life: We can either let our problems defeat us, or we can be empowered by our adversities. I choose the latter. My human experience will never be one of simplicity. It will include pain and sickness that is OK. I refuse to let the pain and sickness that was written in my DNA triumph over me. It is important to accept whatever inevitable calamity you are plagued with, and let it build you instead of break you. Each of us contains multitudes. We hold infinities. My fight is daunting and raw and beautiful and important. That is exactly what makes it a powerful force.”


“I have to justify why I don’t stay in my country—why a country that invested thousands of pounds on my education cannot benefit from it. I really want to contribute, but I cannot. Not because I’ve committed any crime but because of my sexuality.”—Bisi Alimi
activist; founder and director, Bisi Alimi Foundation


“Half of the vaccines in the UNICEF supply system denature before they reach the patient. That’s 1.5 million deaths every year. We have amazing production facilities, incredible suppliers, and patients who need these vaccines and treatments. But in the middle, we have a reliable access question. It breaks all the time.”—Marc Koska
founder, The SafePoint Trust


“The experience of violence is the highest correlate of disease in women. Violence is associated with depression, obesity, heart disease, substance abuse, and chronic pain.”—Paula Johnson
president, Wellesley College


Around the Institute
IDEAS: the Magazine of the Aspen Institute Special Issue 2016
September 1, 2016 • Ideas: the Magazine of the Aspen Institute