A man with no talent, but armed with a digital camera, can waste lots of bandwidth
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Matthew's end of 2014 charity & issues letter
Dec 31 2014: Last year I claimed laziness and failed to write or send out my End of Year Issues email for the first time since I started in 2000. Perhaps it was the stress of being 50, or the fact that despite having 15,000 of my closest friends follow me on Twitter I cant seem to reach people on email, or people miss my Facebook posts. But this year I've been guilted back into it by altogether too many people asking me where it was?!
If you don't know, this is a letter I write mostly to myself about what happened in the year and what I should do about it--mostly in terms of making donations while it's still 2014. Obviously a few of you like reading it and hopefully one or two of them that does will put their hand into their pocket (or click on the link and use their Paypal account or whatever the electronic equivalent is). And if you don't like it, well feel free to hit delete, or go onto the next picture of a cat being cute...and I love comments on the blogs/Facebook/Twitter or by email.
Almost none of this letter is about my family (and I started writing it long before I had one), I'm ashamed to say that this year we finally became one of those families that send out a Christmas Card with pictures of themselves on it. The only excuse is that this year Aero (Lucius Frederic Aero Holt) joined us, and he's been a mellow, laid-back quiet-ish baby in a way that his now 3 &; 1/2 year old sister Coco is, err, not! Way, way more in terms of photos and stories about Coco & Aero are on my Facebook page. For her part, Amanda is being a great mum (adding a second does not make the first one easier!) and she hasn't yet the local Russian mafia bump me off even though in her new job at Gluu she has teams that help people kill electronic deer, and of course become BFFs with Kim Kardashian. (Not kidding, Google how much Kim is making from it!)
Just in case you didn't know, on the work front (with my partner Indu Subaiya & a great team spread across several states & in Europe) I'm still running Health 2.0 which now has multiple conferences and will be heading to Korea & Japan for the first time in 2015. It's kind of worrying but the stuff we've talking about (now semi-wrongly known as Digital Health) is actually becoming pretty mainstream. (Probably time for me to go do something else, then!), I still own The Health Care Blog but basically now that's a group blog I'm allowed to write on if I ask nicely!
Here then is my annual missive about charity and politics --here's 2012, 201120102009, 2008 and you can search back to 2002 (first one was either 2000 or 2001 but either way it was pre-Blogger so I dont have a copy!), As ever, this letter is about my views and suggestions for donations about health care, poverty in developing world, poverty at home, torture, drug prohibition, and other stuff.... Comments/Insults welcome
First, health care.
In the US the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is in effect and barring complete insanity from the Supreme Court next year (yes, that BS is still not over) it's pretty much here to stay. But even though the numbers of uninsured are down remarkably (about 10m or some 20%) there's still 40m uninsured including some 5m+ poor Americans in 23 states that turned down Medicaid expansion even though the Federal government will pay for all of it! Yes in our amazing system, if you are slightly richer than dirt poor in those states, you can get a subsidy covering basically all of your insurance premiums, but if you are Medicaid eligible (really really poor) but not in a special qualifying group, you get nothing. Take a look at this interactive graphic. And no, SF Giants fans, orange is not good here! Families USA is one group that you can support to try to change this (and there's a feeling that the biggest refusenik, Texas, may be changing its mind as Utah, Wyoming & Tennessee are doing)
The other health care news that made me choke on my cornflakes was the Hobby Lobby case which basically mean that employers can discriminate against women (and men!) by not paying for contraception even when the law says it has to be in the benefits package. And yes, they do pay for Viagra. Other than replacing most of the Supreme Court justices with human beings with a heart, not much can be done about the ruling but it did get me thinking. There's one organization that consistently that not only campaigns for but actually provides reproductive services (including contraception, STD testing, counselling, pregnancy support and, yes, safe abortions), so I'm chucking a few bucks at Planned Parenthood.
Some old & newer health care favorites:
Engage with Grace founded by my friend Alex Drane. No donation needed--use the 5 questions you can download to start that hardest of conversations about what you want for your care at the end of life. You can also lobby Alex to start her TV career! Also check out DeathOverDinner which encourages you to have a dinner party and talk about death next week (I'll be going to CES in Las Vegas which amounts to much the same thing!)
I'm still on the board of YTH, a really cool organization that helps use technology to educate young people about sex. The YTH Live conference is in San Francisco in April & it's great and cheap!
You may remember the video of Coco's first bite as part of pediatrician Alan Greene's Whiteout campaign--it has had lots of success in educating families and pediatricians about eliminating white rice baby cereal. Alan's newest campaign TICC TOCC is to stop immediate cord clamping among newborns. Aero's cord was clamped by an OBGYN who walked in about 5 minutes before he was born, with no pre-discussion, other than me shouting frantically & futilely at her. So we need to spread the word in advance to those who deliver children--easier said than done.
One last thing. You should have access to all your medical records in electronic format, Here's information on the Blue Button initiative. I gave a talk at Health 2.0 about Aero's (minor) medical situation at his birth and why this matters...
Poverty in developing countries
In times when the Taliban are slaughtering school kids, it seems like we're losing the battle to create a better future for very poor countries. But there is a lot that's happening that is very positive, and we can't just sit idly by. My favorites for a while have been:
Mercy Corps has multiple projects in the very poorest countries in the world. The Fast Company quote about them is “Mercy Corps insists on serving up smart, bold solutions to seemingly intractable problems ... supporting seeds of change in the wake of turmoil and tragedy.”
Heifer International gives animals directly to the very poor in order to get them out of the cycle of poverty. They allow you to give in other ways. For the cost of a good night out, I bought an irrigation pump & a flock of chicks
Saigon Children's Charity is one of my favorites. It's a smaller charity (receiving a little over $1m a year in donations) focusing on providing rice (and bikes and books and pens) to the families of school children in Southern Vietnam so they stay in school. I support a few individual pupils & let me give a shout out to MediComp Systems, a health tech company which gave SCC $750 in "game show winnings" that I "won" at the HIMSS conference this year.
And one slightly oddball charity working in Uganda to distribute mosquito nets and provide a health center and family planning outreach is Softpower Health You might like this article about kayaking doctor Jesse Stone who started it more or less accidentally
From the imaginations of a married couple in Berkeley,California, We Care Solar makes a suitcase-sized portable solar powered generator and supplies it to health workers in off-grid clinics across the world. They have had a request for 100 suitcases for areas in the Ebola epidemic and have supplied 70 so far. You can help out here.
And/or you can give to Power the World which provides Nokero solar lights, the WE CARE Solar Suitcase, SOCCKET (all of which I've featured in previous letters) and clean cook stoves
Finally, Health eVillages is a charity launched at Health 2.0 by Donato Tramuto from health tech company Physicians Interactive. It delivers iPads, and smartphones with preloaded medical information to clinicians in remote parts of Haiti, Kenya and elsewhere.
Poverty in the US
Is not getting much better. You may have your local favorites, but here's the list I support:
Hamilton Family Center, is a small shelter offering emergency and transitional care, as well as getting families into permanent housing. If you live in San Francisco you know that the housing situation is dire at any income level. Think about those at the bottom. You can help by clicking this link.
Delancey Street Foundation helps people who have hit bottom (think addiction/prison) get back into society and work, It's run by the residents themselves and it's across the street from us (as well as elsewhere in the US). You can donate here although I must confess that my official donation went up when I discovered that all the tips at the cafe get put into the same pool (and I can therefore not tip, donate instead and effectively write my tips off against tax!)
One thing that I am painfully aware of now I have two children is the real problem and high cost of child care. Given that everyone starts off being a child and there's universal agreement that early childhood education is the most important time of life--and that kids from poorer homes get less care and attention and never get to catch up--it's amazing that there's no universal child care program. And even more amazing to find out that th legislation for it was passed in the 1970s but Nixon adviser Pat Buchanan--who was 30 years later a major cause (albeit by accident) of the election of the W Administration--torpedoed it almost single-handedly. Anyway, you might read this article by actress Jennifer Garner about the topic.
Torture and human rights
Well if we didn't know before (and we did) the Senate report confirms that the US sunk into the morass of nations who use torture post 9/11 and as a tool to gain intelligence it was ineffective--other than helping blacken our name. And the Senate report put all the blame on the CIA when it was clear that the same things were happening in the Army prison camps in Iraq (including the one ISIS came from) and the word came down from the very top (Yes, Cheney & Rumsfeld ). My own grandfather was tortured (or perhaps "enhanced-ly interrogated") in a Japanese POW camp, and we should not be doing these things or paying taxes to support it.
These organizations help those being tortured (or who have been) and protest those governments who should act better.
I give to both the Sierra Club (respectable) and Greenpeace (more radical but has more or less got the Japanese to stop whaling), and locally to the Marine Mammal Center--a wonderful facility that helps seals recover, including most years one or two that get shot (yes, really!). Meanwhile in the US we should be campaigning for an increase in gasoline taxes (and not the teeny one that is stalled in Congress)--especially now the oil price is falling due to some geopolitical games the Saudis are playing. Drug prohibition--a terrible idea that is closer to being toppled
I've been protesting drug prohibition forever. A system of taxed and regulated drug distribution is the only solution to removing the criminality associated with drug taking, much of which is relatively harmless anyway. Finally there's some good news with 4 US states and Uruguay having legalized marijuana, and a clause in the latest Cromnibus bill defunding the DEA from raiding medical marijuana in those states where it's legal. But we're still a long way from a commonsense way of dealing with drugs, and there's still lots of criminals and police forces making too much money & budget from what is a medical not a criminal problem. And no one is talking in the US about dealing sensibly with harder drugs (as they are in Portugal, Switzerland and other countries). So
DRCNet home of the best blog and email newsletter, the Drug War Chronicle.They're working on a new campaign to get the UN to overturn its foolish charter banning legalization--here's their round up of 2015
A Dog's Life. Charley has had a couple of surgeries minor surgeries this year, but is still coming to Health 2.0's office most days, While we finally got Coco to stop pulling his tail him, we're sure Aero will be starting up soon. For dog's that aren't as lucky, Amanda and I support Rocket Dog Rescue $50 pays for an adoption, which usually means saving a dog from being destroyed.
Well done for getting this far! Hopefully you found it interesting, and perhaps even thought about joining me in giving. Or send me your suggestions
And with the diaspora away from email this is going on blogs, Twitter, Facebook et al. But an easy way to catch up is to see the photos of Coco & Aero I put up on Facebook.
I've been writing theseendofyearletters about causes and charities for more than a decade now. Looking after a toddler (or at least helping Amanda look after her and trying to stop Coco's 24/7 torturingofthe dog) seems to take all my time so thisletteris very short. If you want to see a proper version with all the reasoning--Here's last years.
Amanda moved to new companyRecommindand is working too hard but seems to be enjoying the challenge, With Indu Subaiya and a castofdozens I'm still runningHealth 2.0which had a banneryear. Coco is perhaps the world's most precocious and demanding 18 month old--Somehow when Amanda gets her ready to go to daycare it takes about 30 minutes, but when I do it's more like 2 hours. More on that topic with photos on my Facebookpage
Basically I use thisletterto remind myselfofwho to donate money to at theyearend, and I hope that one or twoofyou will look at the causes & charities I support. If anyone else reads it and maybe takes a look or even donates, that's a bonus. No grumpy commentary thisyear! (Plentyofthat in years' past)
Health care stuff (mostly educational):Engage with Grace is a place to start a conversations about what you want at theendoflife. MyDirectivesis a very useful site to actually set up all the documentation for those wishes. Foundation for Arts & Healingis helping patients with PTSD including soldiers, kids post Sandy & Newtown. Give here.ISIS uses technology to help educate young people about sex and the safe useoftechnology. You candonatehere or attend the great conference they run now calledYTHLive. 2 kid related issues.Whiteout is designed to prevent infants eating processed white rice cereal and has made big strides in educating peditricians and parents.TiccToccis about those virtual 90 seconds after birth when the umbilical cord is routinely clamped and cut. Wait. No good reason to do it and lots not to! And yes allofthese are run by people I know and like.
Helping the very poor: Mercy Corps hasmultiple projects in the very poorest countries in the world mostly aimed at helping girls and women. Heifer Internationalgives animals directly to the very poor in order to get them outofthe cycleofpoverty. Saigon Children's Charity provides rice (and bikes and books and pens) to the familiesofschool children in Southern Vietnam so they stay in school--I actually get school reports from "my" kids. Softpower Healthworks to prevent malaria and improve maternal and child health in Uganda. (Some big charities, some small, all helping people way less fortunate than anyone reading this)
Tech solutions for the developing world. The solar powered lightbulb from Nokero I bought lastyearactually worked, even after I left it outside in the rain for ayear! !It replaces kerosene lamps which cause huge numbersoffires. Nokero has a listofNGO partners. I picked ChildFund's Global Light to Learn Challenge. And one we saw a few years back, ThesOccketco-founded by Health 2.0 employee Hemali Thakkar is a soccer-ball that really acts as a mini generator for lights and is charged as it gets kicked around, and you can buy one for a poor family for $75! FinallyWe Care Solarmakes a suitcase-sized portable solar powered generator and supplies it to health workers in off-grid clinics across the world--give here.
Dec 31: I'm sitting next to Amanda and sleeping baby Coco (or properly Colette Sophia Holt) in the Java House diner, and due to the magic of technology, I can take a photo on my phone and have it appear on my end of year letter. Coco's arrival was obviously the highlight of my personal year, and Amanda has become the most amazing do-it-all-while-being-incredibly-loving mum of all time. There's of course way way more in terms of photos and stories about Coco, but you can find those by following my Twitter account @boltyboy & Facebook page
Here then is the annual Holt missive about charity and politics (here's 201120102009s, 2008s and you can search back to 2000 when they started), They don't change too much and I suspect that I use them as much to remind myself to give as to inspire anyone else to!
Just in case you didn't know, on the work front (with my partner Indu Subaiya) I'm still running Health 2.0 which now has multiple conferences, and lots of other great stuff like challenges and market intelligence, and (gulp) 14 more or less full time staff. I still own The Health Care Blog but basically now that's a group blog I just contribute to very occasionally! After a few months off post Coco's arrival, Amanda is back to running HR at her company PRN with Coco hanging in day care across the street!
As ever, this letter is about my views and suggestions for donations about health care, poverty in developing world, poverty at home, torture, and drug prohibition. Please read/comment/reply or delete, and if I get any of you to write a check or hit a "donate" button along with me, then it's not a total waste!
First, health care stuff.
It's still impossible for an American small business to buy its staff healthcare in a rational manner--especially if there are employees in multiple states. The sooner that the exchange promised in 2014 as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) appears, the better. Otherwise we need the Canadians to invade. Meanwhile now 52 million Americans are uninsured and many millions more are under-insured. The ACA is not anyone's preferred outcome, but the "repeal & (don't actually want to) replace" crowd have no alternatives. As a small business owner I'm disgusted with the NFIB and other allegedly pro-entrepreneur groups that are fighting the law. Nothing to be done, but hope the law stays in tact. OK, enough grumpy politics...
My health care favorites:
Engage with Grace founded by my friend Alex Drane. No donation needed--use the 5 questions you can download to start that hardest of conversations about what you want for your care at the end of life.
We got really involved in pediatrician Alan Greene's campaign, Whiteout--it has had lots of success in educating families and pediatricians about eliminating white rice baby cereal--but the goal of getting it off the shelves is not done yet. Here's Coco showing Alan how to do that first bite properly. (And she's got much better since!)
Poverty in developing countries
While I'm now thinking a lot about helping my little girl develop into a healthy, active daughter, here are some organizations I support that that promote social entrepreneurship, microfinance, and education for girls who--unlike Coco--were not born well off, in a developed nation.
No long explanations, but my favorites for a while have been:
Mercy Corps multiple projects in the very poorest countries in the world
Heifer International gives animals directly to the very poor in order to get them out of the cycle of poverty.
Saigon Children's Charity a smaller charity focusing on providing rice (and bikes and books and pens) to the families of school children in Southern Vietnam so they stay in school. We support a few individual pupils.
And back on the list this year, Softpower Health working to prevent malaria and improve maternal and child health in Uganda
This year I'm adding the sOccket which was co-founded by someone we're interviewing for a job at Health 2.0. It's a soccer-ball that really acts as a mini generator for lights and is charged as it gets kicked around, and you can buy one for a poor family for $75! Brilliant idea.
Finally We Care Solar makes a suitcase-sized portable solar powered generator and supplies it to health workers in off-grid clinics across the world. You can help out here
Poverty in the US
Is not getting much better. You may have your local favorites, but here's the list I support:
Delancey Street Foundation helps people who have hit bottom (think addiction and prison) get back into society, It's run by the residents themselves and it's across the street from us(as well as elsewhere in the US). You can donate here.
Torture and human rights
These organizations help those being tortured (or who have been) and protest those governments who should act better--especially our own Administration which seems to have forgotten its proud intentions from early 2009:
I give to both the Sierra Club (respectable) and Greenpeace (more radical), and locally to the Marine Mammal Center--a wonderful facility that helps seals recover, often from being shot (yes, really!). Drug prohibition--a terrible idea that still holds sway
A system of taxed and regulated drug distribution is the only solution to removing the criminality associated with drug taking, much of which is relatively harmless anyway. For almost all drugs the harms caused by prohibition exceed the harms caused by drug taking. In yet another piece of backsliding the Justice Department, instead of promoting a rational way to manage and regulate medical marijuana, is now wasting taxpayers money coming after medical marijuana dispensaries--even though it said it wouldn't two years ago. Where's the legislation about rational management of drugs from the President who was a self proclaimed pot and coke user in his youth? We're still waiting.... I support:
DRCNet home of the best blog and email newsletter, the Drug War Chronicle.
A Dog's Life. Charley goes to the new Health 2.0 office with me most days, but still gets bacon at Java House and sausage at Crossroads many days. He's just getting used to a little baby pulling his fur. For dog's that aren't as lucky, Amanda and I support Rocket Dog Rescue $50 pays for an adoption, which usually means saving a dog from being destroyed.
That's it for 2011--please stay in touch (if you've got this far). an easy way to catch up is to see the photos of Coco I put up on Facebook. Let's hope for a great 2012 for everyone!
I'm determined to make this the end of 2010 letter, not "well into 2011" letter. But as I've also got tons to do of an unfortunate work nature on NYE even though it's a holiday, so I am going to be quick--or at least a little quicker than in years past.
I do these letters about charity and politics every year and moved them onto a blog a while ago (here's 20102009s, 2008s and you can search back), and now it's all I use this personal blog for, given that my Twitter account @boltyboy & Facebook page contain most of my very limited rantings. Of course I started these partly because I didn't have the wife & kids that most people send out their end of year missives about. Then in 2007 I added the wife part, and this year's big news is that next year Amanda and I are expecting a daughter. Little Colette should be here around the end of April, and I'm sure she'll have her own Facebook page and 529 account very soon if I know Amanda! The other family news this year is that my sister Dordy had a baby boy called Alex in February. Sister-in-law Lyn has a baby girl called Talia in 2009 but as it was Dec 26 you can count her in the most recent crop!
But enough about babies (for now!). I'm still running the Health 2.0 Conference with my partner Indu Subaiya and now (gulp) four other full time staff (Hillary, Lizzie, Bianca & new recruit Emily). It's still growing (4 conferences last year including one in Europe) and much more besides. Somehow none of this has translated into more time off for me and Indu! I still own The Health Care Blog but basically now that's a group blog I contribute to very occasionally! Other than getting a little plumper around the middle, Amanda is still being a big time star running HR at her company PRN.
This letter is, though, about stuff I care about on a slightly more altruistic level. This annual missive usually breaks down into my views and suggestions for donations about health care, poverty in developing world, poverty at home, torture, and drug prohibition. Feel free to comment, ignore, delete or whatever. But hopefully at least some of you may pay attention to some of it or even write a check.
First, health care stuff.
I won't comment on the passage of the ACA health care bill other than to say, it's an imperfect step in the right direction that has caused the digging up of more meanness and selfishness than even I imagined possible. In terms of health related suggestions:
Engage with Grace was founded by my friend Alex Drane with a touch of help from yours truly. Use it to start that hardest of conversations about what you want at the end of life. And no, Ms Palin, that responsible conversation is not a death panel.
Another Health 2.0-er Manny Hernandez runs the Diabetes Hands Foundation, doing great work to raise awareness and also create innovative tools to help people with diabetes. You can help with a small donation here
Talking of the arts and end of life care, one of the most wonderful people I've met this or any other year is Regina Holliday. (Here's a story about her on VOA and here's her blog). Since her husband's awful death in 2009, she's been using her Medical Mural Advocacy Project to argue for better care and for better medical records. I was delighted that we were able to auction a painting she did at Health 2.0 for a little bit of money to support her work (and many thanks to Regina to coming to SF). What she's been able to do in terms of both art and representing the voice of patients has been amazing. Get to know her and see what you can do to help.
Finally, please join my friend pediatrician Alan Greene's campaign, Whiteout. Let's make sure that we teach kids to eat right from the first bite. Eliminating white rice baby cereal is an easy first step.
Now I run conferences and know what gets spent per head on a meals, those little coke bottles ($5 really!), break time coffee ($7.50!) and all that other stuff. I cringe about the fact what gets tossed away at the end of the day per attendee costs more than more than a billion people live on each month! In some small way to make up for that, I'm focused on helping organizations that promote social entrepreneurship, microfinance, and education for girls.
No long explanations, but my favorites for a while have been
Mercy Corps multiple projects in the very poorest countries in the world
Heifer International gives animals directly to the very poor in order to get them out of the cycle of poverty.
Saigon Children's Charity a smaller charity focusing on providing rice (and bikes and books and pens) to the families of school children in Southern Vietnam so they stay in school
Things aren't getting better for the poor in the US, in fact with the expiry of unemployment benefits & reduction of COBRA payments, they're getting worse.
Amanda and I (along with Amanda's work colleagues) support the San Francisco food bank. Track down your local equivalent by putting your zip code in here.
I've supported the Hamilton Family Center, which is a small shelter offering emergency and transitional care, as well as getting families into permanent housing with relatively little money. We went a bit hogwild by buying a week in Sun Valley at a charity auction they held last October. You don't have to spend that much, but you can help by clicking this link.
The Delancey Street Foundation has an incredible record in helping people who have hit bottom (think addiction and prison) get back into society. It's all run by the residents themselves, and our dog Charley gets sausages from Aubria most mornings at the Crossroads cafe (across the street from us). Although they're now in lots of cities across the US. You can donate here.
And of course you can find organizations like this (well maybe not Delancey Street) in your town.
I've talked abouttorture and human rights for a long time. I wish I could say that the situation is getting better...give a click and a donation to these organizations which help those being tortured and protest those governments who should know and act better:
More than 10 seals have been shot this year alone in the San Francisco Area. the Marine Mammal Center is a wonderful facility that helps them (and many more) recover. We joined as members (just $25) and you might think about helping too. Drug prohibition--a terrible idea that still holds sway
A system of taxed and regulated drug distribution is the only solution to removing the criminality associated with drug taking, much of which is relatively harmless anyway. For almost all drugs the harms caused by prohibition exceed the harms caused by drug taking. But although there's a low grade temporary truce around marijuana in some counties in California, we appear to be no closer to a national or international solution. The organizations I support are:
DRCNet home of the best blog and email newsletter, the Drug War Chronicle.
Every Dog has his Day. And we suspect that Charley's will be when he meets the new baby. But as his chief walker, I know that he has a good life, especially on the days he gets bacon at Java House and sausage at Crossroads. For dog's that aren't as lucky Amanda and I support Rocket Dog Rescue $50 pays for an adoption, which usually means saving a dog from being destroyed.
So another new years letter over. It's good to spend a bit of time reassessing but I'm still happy with many of my choices. But, ten years on, I realize there's way too much still to be done! But it's good to see that there are still people trying hard to make a difference, and even introducing new things each year
Stay in touch in 2011. I'm sure to be plastering Facebook with photos of Colette when she gets here, and hopefully I'll get to see even more of you in real life this year.
Every year end I write this little epistle and every year it gets later. Now with the post new year's weekend fading on the West Coast of the US, I'm rushing the 2010 edition out the door.
So if you haven't seen it before (here's 2009s, 2008s and you can search back), I tell a touch about me and mine and a little more about charities I support. I've always thought that if one or two people click through and either think about something differently or even chip in, it's worth me writing this. And if you don't care, you can always hit delete (or "unfriend" me!). I love comments back too.
So quickly, me and mine: Amanda still works at PRN & is now the boss of the HR department (Congratulations baby!) and has survived a very tough year in her job with skill and class and I'm very proud of her. My extended family (i.e. hers) has been adding babies apace, most recently her sister Lyn having a baby girl on Dec 26. Welcome Natalia! Over in the UK, my sister Dordy is planning something similar in February.
Apart from dogwalking, my side job remains running the Health 2.0 Conference with my partner Indu Subaiya. Around 1,000 people came to our conference in Fall 2009 and we're still highlighting some phenomenal technology and phenomenal people who are helping to make health care better. This year we'll be in Paris on April 6-7, Washington DC on June 7 and back in San Francisco on October 7-8. I also continue to run The Health Care Blog, which had an amazing year because of the healthcare reform process in the US. If you want to keep up with the many contributors thinking about what will be happening in health care in the US, please subscribe to THCB's newsletter.
But on to the real stuff....
As I think this is year 9 of these letters, there's very little new. Although I tend to add a wrinkle each year. So skim, but note the links and click through if you're intrigued.
I'm starting with issues connected to health care.
My friend Alexandra Drane started Engage with Grace and it's been growing like gangbusters. It's a way to start the conversation about what you'd like the end of your life to be like. You can download OneSlide which has 5 questions to start the conversation, record your and your loved ones answers, and pass it on. And if you get a chance, watch Alexandra's talk about her sister-in-law Za's story.
Another friend Jeremy Nobel has started the Foundation for Arts & Healing to help investigate the impact Arts have on healing. The concept is that engaging in Arts somehow will help people recover from (or prevent) illness. Jeremy's already had some publicity and is looking for more support.
Next up, the poorest people in the world. (And no this doesn't include anyone reading this message!)
Mercy Corps has lots of projects going on in the very poorest countries in the world focusing on many uses of social entrepreneurship, microfinance, education for girls, and much much more. You can give to Mercy in many different ways by either making a general donation, or buying one of their Mercy kits.
My friends John, Tracy, Ellen & Georgina Phillipson have been buying in my name from Heifer International. This charity gives directly to the very poor in order to get them out of the cycle of poverty. I doubled up on what I spent going skiing last weekend to buy a Llama. Hopefully this gift will help a poor family get on the road to making Llama & Alpaca wool sweaters, like the ones I bought in Peru in 2009.
I continue to ask people who want a piece of my time to buy bikes for poor kids who would otherwise have to walk to school. Saigon Children's Charity is a much smaller charity focusing on providing rice (and bikes and books and pens)to the families of school children in Southern Vietnam so that their families don't pull them out of school. It also manages a micro-finance program for women in poor families, and trains young people in hospitality. Amanda and I sponsor several kids, and it costs less per kid than you just spent going out on New Years Eve.
Finally on the international front, while in Uganda in 2008 we ran into an tiny American organization called Soft Power Health which is working to provide mosquito nets, education and care to poor kids and their families. You can donate here.
Onto hunger & homelessness & more at home
No secret that this has been a terrible year with more unemployment and homlessness for more people than many of us can remember. And of course donations have also fallen as fewer people have money to give.
I gave less than we spent on groceries for Christmas to the San Francisco food bank, but they'll feed far more people with it! Finding your local equivalent is as easy as putting your zip code in here.
Amanda and I (and her colleagues at PRN) also support the Hamilton Family Center, which is a small shelter offering emergency and transitional care, as well as getting families into permanent housing with relatively little money. You can help by clicking this link.
In a similar vein the Homeless Children's Network supports care services for homeless children. The organization (led by executive director April Silas) provides counseling, therapy and support for those kids who have a life no one should start with. You can make a donation at the site.
Finally I live across the street from the Delancey Street Foundation which has an incredible record in helping people who have hit bottom (think addiction and prison) get back into society. And their Crossroads cafe serves great sandwiches, coffee, and much much more--not to mention Aubria (on page 2 here) giving Charley sausage most mornings. You can find out about services to buy, or you can donate here. And the residents run it all themselves.
Please support these organizations or ones like them where you live.
Next up it's torture and human rights
After years of the US Government acting like it was above the law and unconcerned with human rights, the election of Obama meant things got symbolically better with the promise (as yet unkept) to close Guantanamo Bay and at least discussion of and suspension of torture. And the decision to finally try terrorists for 2001 crimes is at least a step in the right direction. However, I cannot pretend to be amused that evidence of torture continues to be suppressed and that Americans involved in torture are not even going to be investigated-"just following orders" is not acceptable now any more than it was in 1945.
Of course this is not just an American problem. But the idea should be that more countries renounce torture, illegal imprisonment and other human rights abuses-rather than backsliding into those practices.
Amnesty International advocates in every country in the world for those who cannot advocate for themselves
I can't say I'm an optimist but at least I want to say to future generations that I tried. I like to support both "establishment" and "radical" environment organizations so I give to both the Sierra Club and Greenpeace
If you're not the one friend of mine who thinks that global warming is a fraud, you might also consider Cool Earth Action. It's a charity that actually buys and conserves rainforest in South America to help continue to recycle C02. I've given a couple of "friends who had everything" a small piece of a rainforest for their wedding present.
Next is my ongoing opposition to drug prohibition
Let me repeat what I've said for several years. A system of taxed and regulated drug distribution is the only solution to removing the criminality associated with drug taking, much of which is relatively harmless anyway. For almost all drugs the harms caused by prohibition exceed the harms caused by drug taking.
Here there's been some progress this year. But also some steps backwards. Yes, in the US we are no longer raiding medical marijuana dispensaries, but we're not putting a proper legal footing in place for them. Yes, legalizing and taxing marijuana is on the ballot in California, but there's no sensible discussion of how to move to a tax and regulated market. And Mexico remains in a low grade civil war in which thousands have died-and despite the State Department admitting that it is America's fault, no one is allowed to mention the parallels to alcohol prohibition in the 1920s.
I suggest you take a look and throw a dollar or two at:
DRCNet an information clearing house with the best free email newsletter, the Drug War Chronicle.
The Drug Policy Alliance is the umbrella organization working to promote harm reduction and generally bring sense to the national "debate" over drug prohibition.
And last, The Dog Walker's Lament. Actually no lament. Charley gets walked around South Beach (usually by me but others help), gets fed at Java House, Crossroads and South Beach Cafe. And he has a great life. He was a rescue but not every dog is so lucky.
Amanda and I support Rocket Dog Rescue which helps dogs in pounds find new homes. $50 pays for an adoption, which usually means saving a dog from being destroyed.
That's it for this year! Thanks for reading and let me know your own comments.
Happy 2010. I hope you have a great year. Stay in touch with me on twitter (@boltyboy) Facebook or by email email@example.com, or hopefully in actual real life too! Matthew
This year I'm late, late, late...I went out cross country skiing on New Years Eve and am getting to my end of year letter late. It's already 2009, so I hope you had a great New Year's celebration. But I still hope that you'll think about some of the charities and issues that I raise each year. Which is why I write this email/blog posting. The big excitement on the personal front in 2008 was that somehow I remained married and in March & April Amanda and I had a fabulous honeymoon in Jordan, Egypt & East Africa.
We also had lots of other fun, but perhaps we were spending a little too much time working-something that will be balanced out in 2009 I hope.
Amanda still works at PRN and had a great year there where she's now the star in the HR department. I'm still running the Health 2.0 Conference with my partner Indu Subaiya. Over 1,000 people came to our conference this Fall and despite the likelihood of us all living in tent cities during the coming depression, we're going ahead with more conferences in 2009. We think we're doing something important in highlighting how the health care experience can be more approachable and useful for consumers. I'm also still working on The Health Care Blog, which has now become a group blog and has rather more readers than I could have believed possible when I started it in 2003. As 2009 will be an interesting year for health care in the US this will all probably keep me busy. If you want to keep up with my (and many other great writers') thinking about what will be happening in health care in the US, please subscribe to THCB's newsletter.
But my personal and business life is not the point of these emails, which are designed to tell you about my particular interests in charities, issues and causes. Please feel free to hit the delete key, and/or email me back with any comments (polite or not) while you read it. My hope is that a few of the people who read this will either decide to join with me, or perhaps decide to do something similar themselves.
Much of what you're going to read is familiar stuff to those of you who've been receving these emails (or reading this post) for a while. But there is one major new issue this year which I've been involved in. And not only will I mention this first, but it won't even cost you any money!
At the Health 2.0 Conference my friend Alexandra Drane introduced a new movement designed to help individuals and families deal with a decidedly un-fun topic. Alex's sister-in-law Za died of brain cancer at the far too young age of 32. But the manner of her death and the lack of any kind of planning for that terrible eventuality had been upsetting Alex for a while when she first told me about it. (Read Za's story here). At the conference she gave a great talk explaining what she thinks everyone should do about it, and the answer is, have the conversation. Alex (and her team at her company) created a wonderful simple one-slide chart that has five questions helping you start that conversation. It's all at a web site called Engage with Grace, (which also allows you to store your answers for free and learn ways to talk about the issues) and the movement's already been featured in USA Today, the Boston Globe and dozens of health care blogs and in many other places. But I'm asking you to feature it in your life with your loved ones. Go to www.engagewithgrace.org, download the OneSlide (which has the questions on it), start the conversation, record your and your loved ones answers, and please pass it on. I'm spending a minute of every speech I give sharing the slide, and many people thank me for it.
No question that life has been tough for many of us, and most of the world, this year. Of course life has been even tougher for the very poorest people in the world. We saw plenty of them in Africa this year, but despite bread riots we saw in Egypt and the tragic problems in Kenya over the past year or so, there was plenty of hope from the warm people we met while were there. We were particularly encouraged on our last night out in Nairobi when as the token Muzungu dancing in a nightclub, many Kenyans came up to us to welcome us and thank us for being there. Many of them promised us that Kenya was a peaceful country.
So for several years I've been giving to NetAid which merged in 2007 with Mercy Corps. Their idea is to use education, social services, and self-reliance to help the very poorest in the world. Mercy has lots of projects going on in the very poorest countries in the world, it's well ranked by Charity Navigator, and it's received awards for its contributions to social entrepreneurship. You can give to Mercy in many different ways by either making a general donation, or buying one of their Mercy kits.
Over the years my friends John, Tracy, Ellen & Georgina Phillipson who've been buying bogs, chickens and goats in my name. This year I bought two goats. One was for Amanda in Jordan (well we didn't keep it but I gave the Bedouin boy trying to sell it a little money for a photo). The other one was from Heifer International, which has been one of the major charities giving direct aid to the very poor in order to get them out of the cycle of poverty. The cost of dinner for 2 in any decent restaurant in the west buys a "goat" (probably several goats) which provides milk and future baby goats to the very poorest of the poor.
This year I've been asking the multitude of people who ask for an hour of my professional time to buy a bike. The bikes are for poor kids in Vietnam who would otherwise have to walk two hours each way to school. The bikes are just one way you can give to one of my favorite causes, Saigon Children's Charity (although their current appeal for bikes seems to have been answered). Saigon Children's Charity provides rice to the families of school children, so that their families don't pull them out of school. It also manages a micro-finance program for women in poor families. They spend lots of attention on the families and children to make sure that the money is being targeted in the best possible way. Amanda and I sponsor several kids, and it costs less than the Champagne you just drank at New Years.
Finally on the international front, while in Uganda we heard alot about the problems of malaria amongst poor kids. While there's a lots of effort about creating a malaria vaccine, in Jinga, where we had a great day rating on the Nile, we ran into an American organization called Soft Power Health which is working to provide mosquito nets, education and care to poor kids and their families. You can donate here.
The recession bit in 2008 and that means that in the US and the developed world there's more hunger. And it's going to get worse before it gets better. I made a donation to the San Francisco food bank, but of course you can easily find the equivalent organization where you live.
Allied to the problems of hunger is the problem of homelessness. I support the Hamilton Family Center which is a small shelter offering emergency and transitional care for families and children who need help.The center supports lots of families for relatively little money and you can help by clicking this link.
My friend Caterina Rindi is on the board of the Homeless Children's Network which provides social services for the welfare of homeless children. When you consider how important a stable background is for a kid's development, the work the organization does in counseling, therapy, and support for those kids who live in at the best a very unstable environment is very important. You can make a donation at the site.
And of course if you don't live in San Francisco there's bound to be similar organizations in your neck of the woods.
The next section is about world events and politics. Lots and lots of bad government this century (and a little in the last) in the US came home to roost this year. Personally I'm not sure that, despite Obama's election, too much is rescuable on the economic front given the huge damage that's been done, but hopefully some change can happen.
There is real hope that the US government, come Jan 21, can do the right things in terms of repudiation of deliberate acts of its predecessor. This includes closing the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, renouncing torture, and re-establishing the rule of law for criminals who use terror. Obama also needs to have the US show leadership on climate change, and spurring the development of new sources of clean energy. Finally, Sen. Jim Webb is trying to reform the criminal justice and prison system-the major legislation Obama passed in his brief time in the Illinois Senate concerned giving rights to prisoners being interrogated, so there might be some hope there. And then there's the little issue of how to recover the spilt milk that was the invasion of Iraq.
Given how little happened in 2008 on these fronts, and how wrong the direction of the US under Bush has been, groups that are on the correct side of these issues still need support.
I feel very strongly about torture. My own grandfather was horribly mistreated as a prisoner of war. The one thing that is supposed to set American (and Western) ideals apart from other civilizations is that we don't use torture. Among the many things Cheney, Bush, Ashcroft et al have to be ashamed for, the renunciation of this ethos is perhaps the worst.
I've long supported three organizations on the torture issue. Amnesty International directly intervenes for prisoners of conscience and opposes torture. The ACLUhas been the main legal opponent to the US government on torture, domestic spying and has always worked on many other issues attempting to protect freedom. I'm not on their side on every issue, but I remain a card-carrying member. The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture is a British charity that does exactly what its name suggests-providing direct services to those who have been tortured and helping them recover from their terrible ordeals. You can click on any of the names to find out more or donate.
On the environmental side it finally looks as though we're going to get some sense on the issues of clean energy, environmental protection and global warming. That said, both in the US and elsewhere in the world, the environment is in deep, deep trouble. I like the approach of supporting both "establishment" and "radical" environment organizations so I give to both the Sierra Club and Greenpeace.
Greenpeace has been back in the news particularly as the Japanese government has unbelievably been trying to overturn the ban on whaling. Protecting whales was one of the first protests I ever got involved in when I was a teenager, so while Greenpeace may put some people off, they're still the ones putting themselves in danger between the whalers and the whales.
I won't repeat my usual long rant about drug prohibition here, other than to point out that Mexico is now in a low grade civil war, not of its own making but caused by criminals fighting over the rewards from the demand for illegal drugs in the US. A system of taxed, and regulated drug distribution is the only solution to removing the criminality associated with drug taking, much of which is relatively harmless anyway, and for all of which the harms caused by prohibition always exceed the harms caused by drug taking.
Here are the organizations that I support. All of them are worth looking into, reading up their information, and throwing in a buck or two.
Hopefully we'll have a significant change in drug policy under Obama. But he's said virtually nothing about it so far, and given what else is on the new Administration's plate, a major change here is unlikely. It will be impossible without groups like the ones above getting their voice into the fray.
Finally, my real day job is being a dog walker. Charley and I are fixtures wondering around South Beach where Charley' girlfriends are loose with the bacon. Charley is one of many dogs having a happy life despite a very unhappy start to life. Amanda and I support Rocket Dog Rescue which helps dogs in pounds find new homes. $50 pays for an adoption, which usually means saving a dog from being destroyed.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for your comments. Have a great 2009.