Cedar recently hosted a discussion with Chelsea Clinton, Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation and accomplished global health advocate. Clinton shared her perspective on how the United States can prioritize public health at the local and global level, including investing in health equity and overcoming COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.
Selected interview highlights are below. To watch the full discussion, click here.
Clinton’s inspiration to pursue public health advocacy
Clinton reflected on her initial inspirations to pursue public health and pointed to a formative experience where she saw Magic Johnson talk about his HIV positive diagnosis on live television, beginning her interest in the AIDS crisis. “The courage, compassion and humanity that he displayed has stayed with me throughout my whole life,” she said.
Fast forward to Chelsea’s time at Stanford University where she said she was lucky enough to take a couple classes that taught her about what we now call social determinants of health and how we can create environments promoting good health and quality of life for everyone.
The sparks of these experiences ignited Clinton’s passion to pursue postgraduate studies in public health and international relations, as well as her ongoing work as professor at Columbia University.
“[From there] I focused on a decadal look at the global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria…and whether it had lived up to its foundational objectives and what, if any kind visible effects that it had on the broader development assistance architecture and the broader conversation around HIV and AIDS.”
Why we need public health investment
Clinton said we’re living through the most painful example of what happens when you don’t invest in public health. She placed part of the blame for poor investment on the fact that politicians have inappropriately framed public health as something at odds with economic health. Given this reality, she said it’s critical for policymakers to correlate the two to successfully tackle and advance public health issues.
“We know the arguments [that everyone deserves the right to health care access and to live in a place that invests in public health] have not been sufficiently persuasive, so economic arguments have become more important to help catalyze and martial funds to be invested in public health concerns, especially at a global level.”
Clinton explained her frustrations around public modern health discourse, the economic effect of keeping children healthy and how every dollar invested in childhood immunizations brings a tenfold return – to listen, click here and scroll to 9:28.
How public/private partnerships can tackle public health issues
Clinton said we’re seeing a real-time case study in public/private partnerships and how they can aid public health with the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, citing the example of AstraZeneca doses traveling on Emirates airplanes from the COVAX facility to Ghana. Clinton stressed the need to vaccinate the whole planet.
“If the wealthy world only vaccinates itself, we all will continue to remain vulnerable, not only to the variants that we already have seen emerge, but those that will continue to emerge as the [COVID-19] virus circulates in parts of the world where there aren’t robust vaccination efforts underway. I strongly believe that we need to be emphasizing vaccine equity [as] the central part of how we think about vaccination efforts in this country, [and] also at a global level.”
According to Clinton, we need to employ international intellectual property transference around vaccine manufacturing (akin to the Salk polio vaccine model) and development to truly tackle COVID-19 and future pandemics. To find out why, navigate to 13:38.
Combating vaccine misinformation and conspiracies
Clinton contextualized the history of vaccine skepticism and stated that social media platforms need to continue deplatforming conspiracy theories. “We’ve had conspiracy theories around vaccines for a long time – it’s just that they have been turbocharged by the underlying algorithms of social media platforms.”
Hear about how Clinton implored social media companies to take a “more propublic health science-based face-based approach,” her fight against anti-vaccination misinformation campaigns and her thoughts on the most effective weapons in the war on disinformation at 27:33.
For more on how the U.S. can support global vaccination initiatives, Clinton’s mentors, her thoughts on promising startups focusing on public health initiatives and much more, watch the full interview here.
Cedar Talks is a thought leadership series focused on highlighting experienced entrepreneurs, tech innovators and healthcare leaders who are solving important problems by challenging the status quo. Recent Cedar Talks have included Peloton co-founder Graham Stanton, former President of Livongo Dr. Jennifer Schneider, venture capitalists Marc Andreessen and Scott Kupor of Andreessen Horowitz and former CEO and co-founder of Instagram Kevin Systrom.
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