Nnedi Okorafor pens a new Black Panther comic series, and more updates from TED speakers

We’ve been on break but the TED community definitely hasn’t — here are some highlights from the past few weeks.

Black Panther’s Shuri stars in her own comic. Writer Nnedi Okorafor will team up with visual artist Leonardo Romero to bring Marvel’s newest Black Panther comic series to life. Shuri will follow Wakandan princess and tech genius Shuri as she struggles to lead Wakanda after the mysterious disappearance of her brother, T’Challa, the Black Panther and Wakandan king. Okorafor will infuse her signature Afrofuturist style into the African fantasy franchise, which has also been written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and TED speaker Roxane Gay. In an interview with Bustle, Okorafor said “[Shuri is] a character in the Marvel Universe who really sings to me.” (Watch Okorafor’s TED Talk.)

Saving media through blockchain technology. Alongside Jen Poyant, journalist Manoush Zomorodi has launched Stable Genius Productions, a podcast production company that aims to “help people navigate personal and global change” through the lens of technological advances. In an innovative move, the company has joined forces with Civil, a decentralized marketplace operating with blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies to fund digital journalism. Their first project, ZigZag, is a podcast about “changing the course of capitalism, journalism and women’s lives,” and documents the co-founders’ journey building Stable Genius Productions. In an interview with Recode, Zomorodi comments on her partnership with Civil: “The idea is that there’s this ecosystem of news sites … niche is okay; they don’t need to be massive. We’re not trying to build another New York Times on here. This is small and specific and quality.” (Watch Zomorodi’s TED Talk.)

Pope declares death penalty “inadmissible.” Pope Francis recently instituted a change in the Catholic Church’s position on capital punishment, naming it an “attack” on the “dignity of the person.” Though the Catholic Church has been vocally opposed to the death penalty for several decades, with Pope John Paul II calling the practice “cruel and unnecessary,” this move sets a clear and firm position from the Vatican that the death penalty is inexcusable. Pope Francis also urged bishops to advocate for rehabilitation and social integration for offenders, rather than punishment for the sake of deterring future crimes, and announced a goal to work toward the abolishment of the death penalty globally. (Watch the Pope’s TED Talk.)

Two nominations for the alternative Nobel Prize in literature. More great news for Nnedi Okorafor! Both Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Nnedi Okorafor have been longlisted for the New Academy Prize in Literature. Following the announcement that the Swedish Academy would withhold awarding a 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature due to sexual assault allegations, The New Academy was founded to ensure that an international literary prize was awarded this year. Adichie and Okorafor have been nominated along with other international literary luminaries such as Jamaica Kincaid, Neil Gaiman, Arundhati Roy and Margaret Atwood. (Watch Adichie’s TED Talk.)

A new exhibition on the strength and beauty of the Black Madonna. Artist Theaster Gates has funneled his fascination with how the Virgin Mary and Christ are represented into his new solo exhibition at Kunstmuseum Basel in Switzerland. Inspired by Maerten van Heemskerck’s Virgin and Child, Gates’ new work urges viewers to complicate their understanding of the Virgin Mary, a character who is most often rendered as white in traditional fine art. Speaking to BBC Culture, Gates says his show “weaves back and forth from religious adoration to political manifesto to self-empowerment to historical reflection.” Other aspects of the exhibition include a 2,600-strong photo collection of black women whom Gates calls “Black Madonnas…everyday women who do miraculous things,” drawn from the iconic Ebony magazine archive. (Watch Gates’ TED Talk.)



Moving healthcare forward: The talks of TED Salon: Catalyst

TED and Optum partnered to cultivate the dialogue and collaboration that’s needed to understand and guide changes in healthcare. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)

Healthcare is at a turning point. Big data, evolving consumer preferences and shifting cost structures are just a few of the many complex factors shaping the opportunities and challenges that will define the future. How can we all become forces for positive change and progress?

For the first time, TED partnered with Optum, a health services and innovation company, for a salon focused on what happens when we trust our ideas to change health and healthcare for the better. At the salon, held on July 31 at the ARIA Las Vegas, six speakers and a performer shared fresh thinking on how we can make a health system that works better for everyone.

Empathy shouldn’t be a nice-to-have, says Adrienne Boissy — it’s a hard skill that should be integrated into everything we do. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)

How we can put empathy back in healthcare. Many in healthcare believe that empathy — imagining another person’s feelings and then doing something to help them — is a “soft skill,” and not an important factor in the success or failure of medical treatments. But according to Adrienne Boissy, chief experience officer for the Cleveland Clinic Health System, empathy is a critical part of healthcare that, when cultivated, delivers proven, positive impacts to everything from controlling high blood pressure to the outcomes of diabetes. Best of all, it’s something that healthcare workers can learn, in order to “bake caring fixes back into every single part of the healthcare system.” Boissy knows that patients and doctors both suffer under current healthcare systems and their long wait times, communications gaps, and the endemic pressures that lead to staff burnout. To address these problems in her health system, Boissy implemented some big fixes, like same-day appointments for patients, communications training for doctors and less bureaucratic pressure. Her strategies are designed to build empathy back into the healthcare system and “transform the human experience into something much more humane.”

The myth of obesity and the need for a social movement. The global obesity crisis has reached epidemic proportions — but its root cause may not be what you think. Obesity expert Lee Kaplan has studied the issue for nearly 20 years, and the misconceptions around obesity have remained fairly constant throughout: if people simply ate less and exercised more, the thinking goes, they’d be able to control their weight. But the reality is much more complex. “Numerous studies demonstrate that each of our bodies has a powerful, and very accurate, system for seeking and maintaining the right amount of fat,” Kaplan says. “Obesity is the disease in which that finely tuned system goes awry.” There are many types of obesity, with many causes — genetics, brain damage, sleep deprivation, medications that promote weight gain — but in the end, all obesity reflects the disruption of this internal system (controlled by the body’s adipostat). In order to begin solving this massive health crisis, Kaplan calls for us to stop stigmatizing obesity and take collective action to improve the lives of those affected. “We need to change the public perception of blame and responsibility, and support a social movement that will lead to real progress,” Kaplan says. “In so doing, we will begin to see society shrink before our eyes.”

If we design healthcare systems with trust, innovation and ambition, says Dr. Andrew Bastawrous, we can create solutions that change the lives of millions of people worldwide. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)

Innovating the healthcare funding and distribution model. While working in an eye care clinic in Kenya, Andrew Bastawrous was frustrated to find that because of rigid funding regulations, he wasn’t able to help people in desperate need who didn’t have “the right problems.” Though specific resource allocation makes business sense, Bastawrous says, inflexible rules often block healthcare organizations from adapting to shifting situations on the ground. This makes it difficult to deliver even simple medical treatments — for example, though we’ve had glasses for over 700 years, 2.5 billion people still don’t have access to them. That’s why Peek Vision, the eye care organization Bastawrous co-founded and leads, is set up as both a company and a charity — an innovation that allows them to sustainably create healthcare products and serve the communities who need them most. Peek Vision’s successful partnership with the Botswana government to screen and treat every child in the country by 2021 shows that this model can work — now, it needs to be scaled globally. If we design health care systems with trust, innovation and ambition, Bastawrous says, we can create solutions that fulfill the needs of financial partners and improve the lives of millions of people worldwide.

One pill to rule them all? We live in the age of the “quantified self,” where it’s possible to measure, monitor and track much of our physiology and behavior with a few taps of a finger. (Think smartwatches and fitness trackers.) With all this information, says Daniel Kraft, we should be able to make the shift into “quantified health” and design truly personalized medicine that allows us to synthesize many of our medications into a single pill. Onstage, Kraft revealed a prototype that would not only engender an easier time taking medications but also print the drugs he envisions right in the home. “I’m hopeful that with the help of novel approaches like this, we can move from an era of intermittent data, reactive one-size-fits-all therapy,” he says, “improving health and medicine across the planet.”

When it comes to health, we’re not as divided as we think we are, says Rebecca Onie. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)

Divided on healthcare, united on health. The American conversation around healthcare has long been divisive. Yet as health services innovator Rebecca Onie reveals in new research, people in the US are not as polarized as they think. She launched a new initiative to ask voters around the country one question: “What do you need to be healthy?” As it turns out, across economic, political and racial divides, Americans are aligned when it comes to their healthcare priorities: healthy food, safe housing and good wages. “When you ask the right questions, it becomes pretty clear: our country may be fractured on healthcare, but we are unified on health,” she says. The insights from her research demonstrate how our common experience can inform our approach to pressing healthcare questions — and even bring people across the political spectrum together.

Medicine isn’t made by miracles. Our narratives of our greatest medical and healthcare advances all follow the same script, Darshak Sanghavi says: “The heroes are either swashbuckling doctors fighting big odds and taking big risks, or miracle drugs found in the unlikeliest of places.” We love to hear — and tell — stories based on this script. But these stories cause us to redirect our resources toward creating hero doctors and revolutionary medications, and by doing so, “we potentially harm more people than we help,” Sanghavi says. He believes we should turn away from these myths and focus on what really matters: teamwork. Incremental refinements in treatments, painstakingly assembled by healthcare workers pooling their resources over time, are what really lead to improved survival rates and higher-quality lives for patients. “We don’t need to wait for a hero in order to make our lives better,” Sanghavi says. “We already know what to do. Small steps over time will get us where we need to go.”

Jessica Care Moore performs her poem “Gratitude Is a Recipe for Survival” to close out the salon. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)

She has decided to live. Poet, performer and artist Jessica Care Moore closes out the salon with a performance of “Gratitude Is a Recipe for Survival” — a vigorous, personal, lyrical journey through the mind and life of a professional poet raising a young son in a thankless world.


A model of possibility: Tiq Milan on being the architect of his own destiny

30308530590_032c31041e_o (1)

When Tiq Milan and Kim Katrin Milan spoke at TEDWomen 2016, they shared a vision of love and marriage that allowed each person to be who they were. Tiq, left, is a thoughtful spokesperson for a new vision of masculinity that involves choosing aspects of manhood that work for you — and leaving the negativity behind.

Tiq Milan and Kim Katrin Milan brought warmth and light to the TEDWomen stage in 2016, sharing their vision of queer love and possibility. As a Black trans activist, writer and media maker, Tiq Milan expands the cultural imaginary on what it is to live beyond the margins. It’s an interesting time to be Tiq; he’s working on a book, just completed a video project with GLAAD and Netflix — and recently became a first-time parent too. He made time to talk with us last month about his work as a trans advocate, what it means to redefine masculinity and how he lives as a model of possibility for LGBTQ+ youth.

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Can you tell me a little bit about your journey and your work? Who is Tiq Milan and how have you gotten here?

I started off working in hip hop journalism, but I was becoming increasingly masculine in my appearance and I was trying to figure out if I was trans or not. In that environment, being a masculine woman at the time was really hard. People weren’t necessarily hostile. People were awkward — and it was just humiliating. People would misgender me, then look at me weird. I decided to switch it up and work in LGBT nonprofit and work with youth, which I had done before. I figured that if I was able to work in communities that would give me the space to transition in a way that felt really comfortable, I could be a role model and model of possibility for people around me. I was able to find the space where I could use media as a space for advocacy.

I started my transition about 12 years ago, in 2007. Transitioning was an evolution; there wasn’t a point in my life where I was like, “I’m trans and I have to do this.” It really was something that evolved over time. My book, Man of My Design, is about the evolution — it’s not so much about the legal and physical transition but rather about my journey throughout the spectrum of gender, from being a tomboy to a feminine teenager to a butch lesbian to a man. Being me has definitely been a process, and I’m still in that process to becoming my best self.

I am intrigued by that title. I think it’s a really interesting concept, especially in a world where — to some people — gender is immovable, inherent and unchanging. What does designing your own masculinity mean to you?

We’re changing the idea that gender is innate and immovable, and understanding it as self-determined. As transgender people, we’re showing other people in the world — particularly cisgendered people — that we’re all having gendered experiences. But we’re also securing the space to be who we are in our genders, whether you’re trans or cis. As a person who was not born into manhood, I’ve had to curate my masculinity from a blank slate. I had to look at different examples and tropes of masculine and decide what I wanted to engage in and what I didn’t. I had to think about how I could find a home in masculinity and not engage in what is so toxic about it. I had to intentionally not revel in the idea that being a man means being the one in control, being the one who has all the strength or power. It’s easy to fall in that place, particularly as a transman who is always assumed to be cisgender. I don’t deal with a lot of trans antagonism because people perceive me as a cisgender person, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to take up space in the perceived privileges that come with that.

“What does it look like to be a man tethered to my spirit, not so much to what I can control?”

This is about what I call organic masculinity. Manhood — particularly cisgendered heterosexual masculinity — defines itself by what it can control, and when it loses that control, when the entitlement is taken away, men lose their fucking mind. They get violent, they get awful. What happens when I take away that entitlement, take away that control and just start to create the man that I want to be? I am masculine and I have masculine traits, but I’m also compassionate. I believe as a man I can have a range of emotions — it doesn’t have to stop at lust and anger. There’s an idea that men can’t have fear, that men can’t be complicated. I want to turn that on its head.


“I saw the exact person I wanted to be in my mind and I manifested that in this world. If I can do that, I can do anything,” says Tiq Milan, left, shown here with Kim Katrin Milan at TEDWomen 2016. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

What drives you to do the work that you do, toward “living visibly and living out loud”?

I’m visible so other people don’t have to be. Somebody has to be visible. Someone has to be a model of possibility for younger people, and for older people who aren’t out or are still dealing with their gender. Someone has to do it, so why not me? Particularly as a Black man, it’s important to push up against these ideas that being queer and being trans is something that is white. Making sure that people see that this is an intersectional human experience. Here I am, in the flesh, being Black, being queer, being a man; I am all of those things.

I’m starting to become obsessed with this idea of becoming my best self. I listen to Oprah’s SuperSoul Sunday podcast. She’s on that guru shit. I’m trying to figure out what the formula is for this life. I was born a girl and I’m going to die a man. I saw the exact person I wanted to be in my mind and I manifested that in this world. If I can do that, I can do anything.

“What does it look like to be the architect of your own destiny? I want to use the trans experience of self-determination as a blueprint.”

I’m inspired by our journey as trans people, by us taking the reins and saying, “This is the person I want to be, and this is who I’m going to be.” I’m really interested in what that next step looks like spiritually. I want to raise my consciousness. My purpose is my wildest dreams, so what does it look like to live in that purpose? To live and breathe on another frequency is to stay in a place of gratitude, even when it’s hard, even when things aren’t going the way they should be. If I stay in a place of gratitude, then I stay understanding that what I want in this life is unequivocally possible. I think it’s about trying to let go of ego. What does it look like to be selfless? What does it mean to understand that we’re all in this together? Particularly now, with the rampant, vile racism that’s happening in the world I have to keep myself grounded in the fact that we’re all in this together. I try to operate with the understanding that the things that I say and do in this world have a ripple effect. You never know who you’re going to affect. That’s what I mean by raising my consciousness; I want to have a spiritual base, and understand myself as part of a community rather than as an individual.

As you navigate this world existing at multiple intersections of identity and marginalization, what are your core values? As you and Kim said in your talk, you exist at these intersections but you don’t live marginalized lives.

My most core value is to stay true and speak with integrity. I try to say what I mean and mean what I say. Because I hold those values, rarely do I say things that I can’t take back. I’m really conscious about thinking before I speak. What we speak is what we put out into the world, it’s what we create. What we write is what creates truth and what creates this world. I take that very seriously.

In your TED Talk, you mention having to hold up a mirror to yourself and interrogate masculinity, and that it was a process of learning and unlearning. What does that process of reflection look like to you? What does it look like to build your masculinity in a way that doesn’t subscribe to misogyny and toxic patriarchal ideals?

In my process of becoming a man, I had to understand that I swallowed a lot about the superiority of men and the inferiority of femininity. I had to do a lot of unlearning and check myself on a lot of things. What’s been helping has been being surrounded by so many amazing women in my life who would also check me too, and say, “You think you’re so smart and sophisticated, but you’re a sexist and I’m gonna show you all the ways you’re sexist.” It took a lot of hard conversations with really brilliant people to work through these things. I’m not perfect; I feel like I’m always working towards letting go of hardcore, engrained shit about gender.

This goes back to what it means to be a man who is compassionate. I have a heart. I empathize with people. I try to understand the space I take up as a man, and try to be really deliberate about creating space for other people. For instance, when I’m on panels or moderate panels with people of different genders, I make a point to make sure that the feminine people and women on the panels speak the most. I try not to take up space where there are women and feminine people who could speak to something in a better way than I can. I try to be conscious of those things.


“We can change the culture and start saying, ‘Being compassionate, empathic, emotionally complicated and available is a part of being a masculine person because it’s a part of being a human being,’” says Tiq Milan, shown here with his wife Kim Katrin Milan at TEDWomen 2016. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

Research has shown that people who are conditioned to be men have been taught to emotionally repress, and that has devastating consequences, both to those men and to everyone else in the world who faces the backlash from that repression. How do we encourage boys and men to be vulnerable and emotionally communicative? How do we help men heal?

We need to teach little boys to be vulnerable, that nothing is taken away from them if they cry, nothing is taken from them if they’re scared or if they’re in pain. Nothing is taken from them if they’re in love. We have to start early. Growing up, I was a little girl. I’m not the trans person who knew I was trans when I was six. Not growing up in that man culture has had a huge influence on the man I am today. It has allowed me to be better. I don’t feel vulnerable around my own fear or falling in love. If I’m scared, I’ll tell you, I’m petrified. If I need help, I ask for it.

There are so many things that can fuck manhood up. You wear the color pink, you’re not man enough. You show some fear, you’re not man enough. If you actually love a person and show how much you love them, it’s not manly.

“Refusing emotions takes away from the complexity and wholeness of a human being.”

We can change the culture and start saying, “Being compassionate, empathic, emotionally complicated and available is a part of being a masculine person because it’s a part of being a human being,” instead of limiting masculinity to being one kind of person. That’s why there are so many men who are so oppressed, violent and awful. There are just so many cisgendered men who are just awful to everyone. How can you be happy with your humanity if everything tells you that if you don’t act in a very specific way you’ll be stripped of your masculinity, which is something that men hold dear?

There are lot of men who deny there’s a problem, who don’t care, or who just don’t realize. These men are still a part of a misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic social fabric — how do we reach them?

I think it takes a lot of hard conversations. The thing is — people need to be willing to change. We can’t force people. I can meet people where they’re at.

“I can educate people who are ready to change, who say, ‘I’m ready to be uncomfortable, and I’m ready to have my truths complicated so I can grow.’”

If they’re not saying that, there’s no conversation to be had. There’s just so many people out there who don’t care and who don’t want to care, because once they know there’s a problem, there’s an obligation to do something about it, and they don’t want that responsibility. We say ignorance is bliss — it’s easier to pretend that nothing’s going on. You can’t tell me that it’s natural for men to be so violent towards each other, and towards women and children in their homes. I don’t think that’s natural; I think that it’s conditioned. I think a lot of men are coming to place where they’re ready to change, and they’re becoming more disinvested in toxic masculinity. Look at Terry Crews — he’s one of the only men to come out and talk about sexual assault; yet women have been talking about sexual assault for centuries. It’s good to see a man finally say, “This has happened to me too, and I’m understanding this toxic culture that creates these systems.” We need men to understand that toxic masculinity exists in our culture, that we benefit from it, and that we created it so we have to change it.

How are you navigating fatherhood, and what does queering family mean for you?

I’m just trying to do my best. [laughs] I’m trying to make sure my kid doesn’t fall off the bed, doesn’t choke on anything, doesn’t poison herself. A lot of fatherhood is just making sure your kid is fine. My wife is such a good partner, and we’re both parenting full-time. Your whole life changes when you become a parent. My daughter is the light of my life. My kid has a cisgendered queer mom and a transgendered dad. We want her to grow up in a world where gender isn’t a binary system, gender is a spectrum of possibilities. She’s going to know that as a truth in her life; she’s going to know that gender looks so many different ways, and that her gender can look however she chooses as she gets older. Her journey in gender is not a process of coming out, it just is. We also want her to know that families can look a whole bunch of ways. We’re being really intentional about meeting other queer parents, other queer parents of color, other gay parents, so that she has a really open idea around family and around love.

Queerness is freedom to create family and love how we want. She’s going to be raised with queerness as a culture. I think queerness is the future.”



Tiq and Kim with their daughter. As Tiq says: “My kid has a cisgendered queer mom and a transgendered dad. We want her to grow up in a world where gender isn’t a binary system, gender is a spectrum of possibilities. She’s going to know that as a truth in her life.”


3 reasons why women are still fighting for equal healthcare

“A common theme here is that the data exists, but it has been ignored or beaten back,” says science journalist Linda Villarosa. At the Aspen Ideas Festival, TEDWomen co-host Pat Mitchell (at right) led a conversation about challenges around getting fair and equitable health care for women. The panel included, from left, journalist Villarosa, Dr. Deborah Rhodes of the Mayo Clinic and Dr. Paula Johnson, president of Wellesley College.

TEDWomen co-host Pat Mitchell writes: Once again this summer, I had the privilege of moderating sessions during the Spotlight Health Aspen Institute Ideas Festival. There were some surprises in a session titled “Breakthroughs and Challenges in Women’s Health” with importance for all women, and I want to share some of that information with you.

With two esteemed physicians — Dr. Deborah Rhodes of the Mayo Clinic and Dr. Paula Johnson, who was chief of women’s health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard University and is now the president of Wellesley College — as well as science journalist Linda Villarosa, we began our conversation with the important reminder that improving health care depends in large part on research.

We don’t know what we don’t look for

Despite legislation passed over 20 years ago, women, and especially women of color, are still being left out of clinical trials, and the health outcomes for women, and especially women of color, reflect this disparity.

Dr. Paula Johnson talked about the disparity between the resources for research on men’s diseases and those specific to women in her 2014 TEDWomen talk — and if you haven’t seen it, I highly encourage you to watch it.

Dr. Johnson explained that every cell in the human body has a sex, which means that men and women are different right down to the cellular level! As a result, there are often significant differences in the ways in which men and women respond to disease or treatment. It’s very important in research trials to differentiate between female and male subjects so we can tease out the differences.

Although we have made progress since the 1990s with more women included in late-phase trials, we’re still not there in phases 1 and 2. This is important, she says, because how do we get to phase 3? Phases 1 and 2. In these early stages of research, female cells and female animals still aren’t being used. Why? She says one commonly cited reason is that female animals have an estrous cycle. Well, guess what, she says, so do we. What are we missing by not including female cells earlier in the research process?

The power and persistence of the status quo

One of the barriers to progress that perhaps we don’t think about as much is the problem with well-entrenched power paradigms, profit motives and institutional priorities. What happens when a doctor sees a need and solves it but the status quo is preferred over progress?

Dr. Deborah Rhodes — whose talk above from TEDWomen 2010 is a must — spoke about the challenges to her attempts to introduce a new diagnostic protocol for women with dense breasts. Dr. Rhodes (who in spirit of full disclosure is my personal physician at the Mayo Clinic) has observed in her practice that about 50% of women were potentially missing a cancer diagnosis because traditional mammograms fail in detecting breast cancer in women with dense breasts. Mammograms depend on visually seeing cancer cells, and in dense breasts this is more difficult because of the surrounding dense tissue.

As Dr. Rhodes says, in looking at entrenched paradigms in medicine, there is perhaps nothing more entrenched than the mammogram. She worked with physicists to come up with a new way to look for tumors using a tracer that has been safely used in cardiovascular medicine for decades that distinguishes tumor cells regardless of density. Her technique is FDA-approved, but you’ve probably never heard of it. It speaks to, as she says, “the extraordinary difficulties of upsetting something that is so precious to us as a mammogram.”

Earlier detection using her new test in women with dense breasts whose cancer may be hidden in a mammogram could spare women from toxic treatment (less advanced cancer means less chemotherapy) and, in more advanced cases, saving lives. Despite that, her research has been very, very difficult to fund. She says it’s a daily uphill battle to overturn the status quo. Doctors have invested years and years in learning how to read these difficult mammograms, and billions of dollars are invested in the current technology, resulting in a resistance to new technology and new ways of testing.

Intersection of gender, race and ethnicity

One of the more shocking statistics that Dr. Rhodes highlighted in her presentation was the disparity in outcomes for white women and women of color with breast cancer. White women are more likely to get breast cancer than black women, but black women are more likely to die of breast cancer. She says that is true particularly for black women under the age of 50 who are diagnosed with breast cancer. They are 77% more likely to die than white women. She points out that despite abundant data that informs us of these disparities, solutions are not being pursued.

The same tragic disparity between what we need to know for better health outcomes and what is fully understood as life and death factors was the subject of Linda Villarosa’s recent cover story in the New York Times Magazine titled “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis.” In her incredible article, she noted that black women were three-to-four times as likely to die in childbirth than white women and black babies die at a rate that is twice that of white babies.

Linda was one of the first journalists to put the maternal and infant mortality rates together and to investigate why black women and babies are so at risk. As she put it: “A common theme here is that the data exists, but it has been ignored or beaten back.” And further, she connected a condition identified earlier by Dr. Arline Geronimus called “weathering” that is a significant factor in the health outcomes for women of color. “The effect of racism — living with the near daily episodes of microaggressions and discriminations — have an adverse impact on health that needs to be better understood and incorporated into diagnosis and treatment for women of color.”

Shocking, yes, and deeply disturbing, but the good news is that the more we know about our own health and what impacts it adversely, the more proactive we can be as health consumers.

As one of the panelists noted to this highly engaged audience at Aspen Institute, “Nothing less than our lives depends on being informed and demanding that our health care institutions and physicians are, too.”

You can listen to the entire panel on aspenideas.org.

– Pat




The theme for this year’s TEDWomen event is “Showing Up.” We’re planning three inspiring days of ideas and connections full of creators, connectors and leaders. These dynamic and diverse pioneers are facing challenges head on and shaping the future we all want to see. If you haven’t been before, this is the year to show up!

I hope you’ll join us in Palm Springs Nov. 28–30, 2018. Registration is filling up fast and I don’t want you to miss out, so click this link to apply to attend today.


Why TED takes two weeks off every summer

Why_we_close_983pxTED.com is about to go quiet for two weeks. No new TED Talks will be posted on the website until Monday, August 13, 2018, while most of the TED staff takes our annual two-week summer holiday.

Yes, we all, or almost all, go on holiday at the same time. (No, we don’t all go to the same place.)

We’ve been doing it this way now for almost a decade. Our summer break is a little lifehack that solves the problem of a digital media and events company in perpetual-startup mode, where something new is always going on and everyone has raging FOMO. We avoid the fear of missing out on emails and new projects and blah blah blah … by making sure that nothing is going on.

I love how the inventor of this holiday, TED’s founding head of media June Cohen, once explained it: “When you have a team of passionate, dedicated overachievers, you don’t need to push them to work harder, you need to help them rest. By taking the same two weeks off, it makes sure everyone takes vacation,” she said. “Planning a vacation is hard — most of us still feel a little guilty to take two weeks off, and we’d be likely to cancel when something inevitably comes up. This creates an enforced rest period, which is so important for productivity and happiness.”

Bonus: “It’s efficient,” she said. “In most companies, people stagger their vacations through the summer. But this means you can never quite get things done all summer long. You never have all the right people in the room.” Instead, for two weeks — almost no one is.

So, as the bartender said: You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. We won’t post new TED Talks on the website for the next two weeks. (Though we’ll keep serving up great recommendations for talks you already love or might have missed across all our platforms.) The office is more than three-quarters empty. And we stay off email. The whole point is that vacation time should be truly restful, and we should be able to recharge without having to worry about what we’re missing back at the office.

See you on Monday, August 13!

Note: This piece was first posted on July 17, 2014. It was updated on July 27, 2015, again on July 20, 2016, and again on June 23, 2017, and yet again on July 27, 2018.