Can Social Networks Cure Disease? Part I

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Last week I gave a talk at TEDMED on how social networks may be an unexpected solution to our heath care crisis.

Here’s how my talk went…..

I want to tell you a story of how a skinny Haitian chicken and a bowl of beet and cabbage soup turned my world upside down and helped me think differently about how we might deal with the crazy explosion of lifestyle driven chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and obesity – what I like to call DIABESITY!!!

How can we even think about solving this problem that will cost the global economy $47 trillion over the next 20 years and by the end of this decade will kill 50 million people a year, killing more than twice as many people as infectious disease.

How do we think about a world—where now there are more people who are overweight than are starving?

How do we think about a world where there soon will be half a billion diabetics and almost a billion pre-diabetics and only a fraction of doctors and health care workers needed to take care of them? These are not just diseases of affluence, but are exploding in the poorest countries on earth.

So what does a skinny Haitian chicken have to do with rethinking how we approach chronic lifestyle driven diseases? My RE-thinking started on Jan 1, 2010 –the first day of the first month of the first year of this new decade. I had just finished a book about Paul Farmer, who successfully tackled the worst diseases in the worst places on the planet.

Paul Farmer successfully treated TB and AIDS — which everyone thought were untreatable in the face of extreme poverty in places like Haiti, Lima or Rwanda.