Experts from GW Tackle Health Issues at 2017 Milken Institute Global Conference

The three-day event included panel discussions with Lynn R. Goldman and William H. Dietz.

Lynn R. Goldman Milken Institute Global Conference. (Milken Institute)
Milken Institute School of Public Health Dean Lynn R. Goldman speaks at the 2017 Milken Institute Global Conference.
May 19, 2017

More than 3,000 leaders gathered in Los Angeles last week for the 2017 Milken Institute Global Conference, an annual meeting that convenes experts in finance, education, policy, health, technology and other sectors from around the world.

The event featured discussions with Michael and Lori Milken Dean of Public Health Lynn R. Goldman and William H. Dietz, director of the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at the Milken Institute School of Public Health.

This year’s meeting focused on issues such as trends in technology and health initiatives under the new administration. In addition to university leaders, speakers included former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Milken Institute Chairman Mike Milken.

During a panel titled “Quality Assurance: Why Women Lead Most Health Care Decisions,” Dr. Goldman emphasized how critical it is for women to have access to accurate sources of information when it comes to making health care decisions. She pointed out that according to many surveys, women make major health care decisions not just for themselves but also for their entire families. In the advent of the digital age, new blogs and Internet sources often provide information that is inaccurate or misleading.

“It’s good that there’s choice and information, but I’d like to talk more about how we make that information more relevant, more solid and more fact-based,” Dr. Goldman said.

As an example of how misinformation affects public health, she described the anti-vaccine movement in California that led to an outbreak of the measles—a topic she wrote about in the Huffington Post two years ago.

Dr. Goldman also said technology, together with in-person medical attention, can help improve health conditions and help connect women with other people in their communities for support.

In the panel “Reducing the Health and Economic Burden of Chronic Disease,” Dr. Dietz said his experience working as the director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 15 years gave him insight into how obesity affects conversations about chronic diseases.

He said that the consequences of obesity include cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and even cancer—20 percent of cancers in women and 16 percent of cancers in men are associated with obesity. While obesity affects African American and Mexican American populations disproportionately, Dr. Dietz said that 9 percent of 2 to 5 year olds, 7 percent of 6 to 11 year olds and 36 percent of 20 to 39 year olds are obese.

“This is a very widespread problem, one with substantial consequences and one which is also very costly,” he said, adding that recent estimates from the Milken Institute suggest that obesity accounts for approximately 12 to 13 percent of national health care costs.

Dr. Dietz said that the country does seem to be making progress to curb obesity. The consumption of sugary drinks and fast food has decreased, and strategies to promote wellness, such as nutrition guidelines and physical education programs, have been put in place at early education centers. He also credited the efforts of the Obama administration to change school meal programs, and former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign.

Community services are also critical to managing obesity and chronic diseases. Dr. Dietz pointed out that individuals cannot improve their diets or physical routines if they do not have access to nearby healthy food markets or recreational centers.

“We have got to be much more cognizant of the community elements and the environment elements that are tied to the management of these chronic diseases,” he said.

Videos of the panel discussions are available here.

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